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Game getting too soft, says 'The Rattler'

OVER-PROTECTED goalkeepers using over-sized hurleys, players wearing 'bird cages' on their heads, no frontal shoulder charge allowed. . .

Former Tipperary legend Mickey 'The Rattler' Byrne, a five-time All-Ireland medal winner in the 1945-58 period, expresses reservations about aspects of modern-day hurling in a book chronicling the life and times of one of the game's great characters.

He acknowledges the skill, commitment and fitness levels of current players, but believes the game lacks the physical dimension which applied in his days.

"Outlawing the front shoulder charge gives the modern forward a great advantage and encourages him to run at the defence," he said.

Mickey also raises an issue which continues to go unchecked in the modern game.

"After lifting the ball, free-takers can now keep it on the hurley for a few seconds to settle themselves. This would have been regarded as fouling the ball in the days of Jimmy Doyle, Eddie Keher, Jimmy Kennedy and Paddy Kenny," he said.

As for goalkeepers, he reckons they are so over-protected they could "have eggs in their pockets and they wouldn't break them."

Those are some of his views on the modern game, but it's his take on a vast range of experiences during his long career that will enthral hurling people.

The book, put together by the Byrne family and skillfully penned by Michael Dundon, retired editor of the 'Tipperary Star', is a fitting tribute to 'The Rattler', who draws special tributes from several former colleagues and opponents, including Wexford's Tim Flood who described him thus: "He's one man I used never looked forward to marking. A tough yoke!"

Irish Independent