GAA needs to save old skills of hurling
The future of the unique art of hurling is at risk and, as supporters of our sport, we urgently need to ignite the debate.
In 1996, as a member of the Cork County Coaching & Development Committee, I presented a paper 'Cork Underage Structures' with a brief history of the previous 50 years to a seminar on the future of Cork hurling in UCC.
While researching the evolution of games over 2,000 to 4,000 years, I came to the conclusion that we started, especially in Greece, with two of what could be called field games known as 'footies' and 'stickaball'.
Now we come to the inescapable conclusion that in the context of GAA games we also have two games, whereby the hand is the dominant instrument of play rather than the hurley in the case of hurling.
One is 'Hurling/Hand/Stickaball' and the other is 'Gaelic/Hand/Footie'.
The concession our hurlers make when playing shinty teams by eliminating the hand brings increased fluidity to our ancient game and revitalises 'hurling skills', for example, killing the sliotar with the hurley and delivering it without handling, hitting from hurley instead of hand, and doubling on the sliotar. It also helps in eliminating unseemly 'rucks' involving up to eight players.
Hurling has become a game of set-pieces interspersed with sessions of handball and rucks and frees producing most scores.
My brother Jim Coughlan and I (former Cork county hurler) have attended and studied eight county championship games (Senior and Intermediate) and watched Ireland v Scotland playing Shinty/Compromise Hurling over the past five weeks.
We believe, as do many former inter-county hurlers, that our ancient game is in danger of losing many of the unique skills that made it one of the fastest field games in the world.
It is therefore incumbent on our association to address these issues in hurling now. Otherwise the skills displayed by Jimmy Barry-Murphy and John Fenton when they gave us goals of the century in their time will never again be replicated.
Perhaps we have forgotten one of the greatest coaching mantras: 'Let the ball do the work'.
May the debate begin!
Improvement not possible with Trap
The only reason I may watch the closing stages of Ireland's international soccer games these days is to see the debate afterwards between RTE's panel of John Giles, Liam Brady and Eamon Dunphy chaired by Bill O'Herlihy, whose memoir is out now.
Giovanni Trapattoni had a very good career as a club manager, winning titles in four countries, but that was some years ago. The best and worst moment in his management of Ireland was the team's great performance in the World Cup 2010 qualifier match in late 2009 against France, when we were beaten by the most blatant handball in international football.
It was good for the first two years or more. But this episode was the beginning of big disappointments; too many for some of the veteran players, which led to Ireland's greatest goalkeeper Shay Given deciding to retire after many years of service.
I don't see Ireland's games against serious opponents improving, now that the FAI have decided to retain the services of Trapattoni, even with his agreeing to attend matches in England to see potential players for Ireland play instead of watching videos as he was doing in Italy.
I really don't think it will make that much of a difference seeing the players in action, as I think one can have a better view watching on DVD, so that criticism of him by some commentators of how he didn't go to matches does not hold water. I think his lack of English is a factor.
I would rather Ireland not qualify for the 2014 World Cup than go there and put in performances that only reduce our reputation in international football, like what happened in the games at Euro 2012.
All Stars could do with a second XV
I note some great players were left off the All Stars in football and hurling.
In view of the fact that only 15 can be picked on each team, I think another 15 should have been picked in football and hurling and called the All Stars runners-up. I'm sure the sponsors would not mind. Each year we have great players but with no rewards.