Hurling is a 'cultural treasure' trapped in provincial time warp
These are both the best and worst of times for hurling.
The best because the game is being played in record numbers and gaining ground far beyond its traditional strongholds. New competitions at adult level are giving it a meaningful presence in the 'weaker' counties. Coaching standards and structures have improved beyond recognition over the last 20 years. There also seems to be a wider appreciation that hurling is more than a sport; it is, to quote Martin Fogarty - the recently appointed by the GAA as National Hurling Development Manager - "a cultural treasure".
The worst? A quick look at the All-Ireland roll of honour ahead of tomorrow's All-Ireland clash between Kilkenny and Tipperary - the fifth final between the counties in eight years - indicates that at the highest level, hurling is an exclusive club whose membership criteria are becoming more rigorous and unyielding with every passing season. Counties striving for admission to the inner sanctum should prepare for an initiation process lasting decades rather than years.