Wednesday 21 February 2018

Vincent Hogan: Hurling gets a raw deal from League's anti-climax

Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

My youngest son thinks Lar Corbett must have been born at the bottom of a rainbow. He likes Liverpool too and the Leinster rugby team and, over the last few days, developed a mild affection for some oriental golfer whose trousers had clearly been made from a collection of his mother's dish-cloths.

He enquires, occasionally, about Lewis Hamilton. And Lionel Messi. I believe he may, on occasion, have googled Miley Cyrus. His absolute TV idol is the bloke Charlie Sheen plays in 'Two and A Half Men' (the drunk, debauched, serially unreliable one).

Yet, the only picture on his bedroom wall is of Corbett.

He hurls with the same yellow Cooper helmet Corbett wears and he likes to play in roughly the same postal code (floating half-forward). He was in the Hogan Stand last September when Lar gave that All-Ireland final masterclass for Tipperary.

He still shakes his head in disbelief that someone else won man-of-the-match.

You will gather, then, that hurling's his thing. So this weekend, with the last round of National League games down for decision, you'll have a pretty good idea of where his mind will be. Yep. Magners League and Premier League.

Oh, he might check out how Lewis gets on in Shanghai. And any TV reviews of last night's drama at Augusta will be sure to catch his eye. But he won't watch the hurling next Sunday evening because, frankly, that'll be about as riveting as watching old people play backgammon.

What is it in their DNA that gives the GAA the air of a parent who prefers spears of broccoli to cocktail sausages for their kid's party? It's as if there must be some element of religious retreat to everything they do, a matter of recompense for past sins.

Bar Dublin and Limerick battling to avoid relegation, next weekend's hurling programme is a virtual dead rubber. Why? Because of the need to facilitate clubs in how they do their business, apparently. So we run off the National League like it's a Friday night fire sale.

This column has had its differences with Galway Hurling Board secretary John Fahey, but he's on the money in railing against the absence of a proper climax to this competition. Next Sunday, Fahey's Galway play Cork, both knowing they have already qualified for the final on May 2. So a league that, hitherto, has been mildly captivating, essentially grinds to a halt. And all, it seems, because we couldn't afford another Sunday for semi-finals.

Instead of Cork, Galway, Tipp, Waterford or Kilkenny actually having something to play for next weekend, they get a game of charades.

This isn't just stupid, it's imbecilic. Actually, at a time when the GAA seems hell-bent on taking a crozier to Nemo Rangers for allowing rugby studs clack across their sacred ground, you have to wonder if the association actively nurtures this image of Old Testament obstinacy.

Rules, frankly, are only as wise as those who administer them. And anyone who believes that Paul O'Connell and Ronan O'Gara stepping on GAA property is good reason to reprimand the hosts needs to be told that the Vikings left some time ago.

If a rule-book makes you look narrow-minded and dim, burn it. Write a new one. Let the sunshine in.

The smart way to fight for a child's imagination isn't through pulling heavy curtains. It's through opening doors, through filling their minds with homespun heroes.

Yet, just as the soccer and rugby seasons gather dramatic tumult, hurling is given a sedative. Why? It's a sport that everyone agrees needs special nurturing, yet we can't even give it the respect of a proper league.

If the extra Sunday required to run two semi-finals so discommodes the clubs, then it's pretty clear the clubs aren't doing their jobs very well.

You want irony? Sunday, May 9 has been designated 'Lá na gClub' this year.

How many fixtures will be played that day? None. This column has never understood why the bulk of counties fail to run off their club championships with any degree of efficiency.

What exactly is the problem? After next Sunday's farce, a lot of county teams will get just two more competitive games in nine months.

This is marketing from hell.

Frankly, it's not that there are too many county games. There are too few.

Look at Kilkenny. They had no difficulty running a full round of club matches the week after last year's Leinster final and -- again -- after their All-Ireland semi-final. The one county that habitually goes the distance every summer still keeps its club championship ticking over.

In other words, the busiest hurling people appear to be the ones operating with the least congestion.

So the league gets hustled out a side-door next weekend, like an embarrassing relative who's over-indulged at a wedding. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

And Corbett? He may or may not play in Tipp's resoundingly meaningless tie with Offaly. After that, he can next be seen in competitive inter-county action on May 30. If Tipp lose that day, he's one strike away from a summer with his feet up. A World Cup summer.

Where's Tommie Gorman when you need him?

Irish Independent

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