Sport Hurling

Friday 22 September 2017

Some see it as a simple case of comply or die

Waterford's Clinton Hennessy knew what he had to do to continue his hurling career

Life experience shows that things get easier the more often you do them. At 32, I didn't expect to have to start wearing a helmet but playing for Waterford is important to me so I decided to start practising before the new rule was enforced.

Firstly, I had to get into the habit of bringing a helmet to training -- it's never been on my checklist or been part of my routine, so I was surprised by the amount of space it took up in my gear bag. My plan was to start with the basics so I eased into it with some running. Initially I felt choked up and a bit claustrophobic but I knew if I wanted an inter-county career in 2010 I had to persevere.

The good thing about the helmet itself is it's actually surprisingly light. I know a few years ago they carried a lot more weight. Mycro gave me one and I managed to limit the amount of bars in the face guard, I've kept the eye area as clear as possible.

The next step was graduating to hurling. I'd heard from a few of the other goalies how difficult it was but I still didn't know what to expect. Brendan Cummins had mentioned seeing a black spot with it when the high ball was dropping. The hardest thing I've found so far is when I block the ball and it goes straight up in the air. My initial instinct is to look almost directly above my head, but I can't do that with a helmet on.

My first full game was as strange as I thought it would be. Wearing a helmet for 70 minutes is a new experience. Initially it required concentration to not think about the fact that I was wearing one.

Thankfully, as the game got into full flow, I forgot all about it. It's probably all in the head that visibility is bad with it on; it's really just a matter of getting used to it.

One of the things that surprised me was how affected I was by the weather. Last week I played half a

game in the rain and under lights. I guess there were a lot of things going against me but it was extremely tough. When it's raining it's almost second nature to pick up a towel to wipe my face but with the helmet on it's just not possible to do that, hopefully it will be a dry summer, but I doubt it.

Thinking about the Championship makes me worried about the heat. I can't imagine it being very comfortable to wear a sweaty helmet on a hot July day, and then there is the sun to contend with. I won't be able to wear my cap. They will probably invent some sort of a helmet with an adjustable visor but I'm sure I'll be retired by then.

The over 30s are the biggest group affected and I'm sure most of us would like to have finished our careers without wearing one, but we've no choice now. When we are retired people probably won't even remember that at one time helmets weren't always mandatory.

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