'Nothing off the table' as Sheedy hurling review casts net wide
MUNSTER may already have provided two spellbinding thrillers but that doesn't mean the game of hurling has no problems, according to Liam Sheedy.
The former Tipperary star, who led his county to All-Ireland glory in 2010, has been asked to chair 'Hurling 2020', a new root-and-branch review of the game, similar to the review of Gaelic football (FRC) that produced some major rule changes this year, including the black card.
Sheedy and his committee do not envisage major changes to the playing rules but are open to all suggestions, and he stressed yesterday: "Nothing is off the table."
"This isn't about frantically making changes to what is a wonderful game," he added.
"But we'd be naive to think there aren't areas where improvement can be made. Any organisation should be looking at where they're taking their sport or business in the next eight to 10 years.
"Hurling is in a really strong place in some counties but the amount of teams we have competing for Liam MacCarthy is not as high as anyone would like and could we, over time, broaden it out to 12 or 15 teams?
"Every child, irrespective of where they come from, should be given the opportunity to participate in the game of hurling. Dublin has been the (most recent) success story but that hasn't been an accident and there can be more Dublins.
"It's about making sure hurling has an identity in other counties."
Sheedy heads a group of ex-players whom GAA president Liam O'Neill has asked to complete a full review of the game. They include Michael Duignan (Offaly), Frank Lohan (Clare), Pat Henderson (Kilkenny), Ollie Canning (Galway), Paul Flynn (Waterford), Ollie Moran (Limerick), Terence McNaughton (Antrim), Des Cullinane (Cork) and Veronica Curtin (Galway).
Like the FRC, they want to canvass the opinions of everyone involved in the game.
An online survey (gaa.ie/hurling-2020) will play a key part in their research – those who complete it will go into the draw for a pair of 2014 All-Ireland tickets.
"The survey is the most critical part," Sheedy said.
"If we feel there is a real energy or passion among people for change in a particular area, then it's our job to make sure that we bring it forward, provided it's for the betterment of the game."
The committee hopes to produce their conclusions by October, in time to get any formal proposals ready for next year's Congress.
Duignan said their early research has discovered alarming drop-off rates in early teens.
"The game's in a great place in the top eight counties but if you go down behind that and into clubs it's not," Duignan observed. "It's frightening when you see the statistics."