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From The Stands: Shining a light on hurling's heritage






Dick Walshe was 19 years old when he cycled from his home in Tullaroan, Co Kilkenny, to Killarney for the 1937 All-Ireland hurling final where his team took what he describes as "a master leathering" from Tipperary. Still hale and hearty at 96, he recalls his experience of a terrible day for the black and amber - and the bike journey home through Tipperary - in a new hurling chronicle published this week.

Hell for Leather: A Journey Through Hurling in 100 Games, co-written by Ronnie Bellew and Dermot Crowe, begins with the story of a man who reputedly walked 20 miles to play in the 1887 All-Ireland final between Galway and Tipperary and concludes with a reflection on this year's drawn All-Ireland final and replay. It is not a conventional history or compendium of classic matches; instead the book employs an anecdotal style and warts-and-all approach that provides a lively overview of the game's evolution. There are enough fresh twists on some old tales to raise even the most seasoned eyebrows, and it would be a good starting point for younger supporters or recent converts to hurling keen to learn more about the game's vast heritage.

The book is well researched and over 40 interviews were carried out for a journey with some unexpected detours and startling sights along the way. It's unimaginable now to think of a crowd kneeling in unison and saying the Rosary as they did at Thurles in 1935 when a player was given the last rites on the pitch. It's equally unimaginable that a player would sink a gallon of beer the night before an All-Ireland final, but that's what a Cork hat-trick hero did the weekend of the 1970 decider against Wexford.

It's all about the journey as Dick Walshe can testify. For the record he got through Tipperary in one piece: "Some of them were decent enough and asked us in for tea. No matter what you saw, and what anyone says, there's no-one more decent than Tipperary people."

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Slade Power's attempt to prove himself the best sprinter in the world ended in injury and defeat in Melbourne during the early hours of yesterday morning.

Despite the outcome, trainer Eddie Lynam's adventurous spirit has to be admired and the Dubliner's stars have acquitted themselves with distinction on soil far from his Dunshaughlin base.

Lynam travels his horses out of necessity because of the lack of top level sprints in Ireland. Sole Power has run 44 times in his career so far and 34 of those starts have been outside of Ireland. His 45th is expected to be in Hong Kong next month.

The last time the seven-year-old raced in this country was in August 2011. A four time Group One winner over five furlongs, including a sprint double in Britain this season, there is no race at the highest level over his specialised distance in Ireland, even with the changes made to next year's racing pattern.

Since he last raced in Ireland Sole Power has contested 18 Group One sprints in England, France, Hong Kong and Dubai.

Lynam's predicament is shared by others but the one positive out of the situation is that Ireland's speedsters have gained international recognition.

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The high-octane world of Formula One is the last place you would expect to come across the crowdfunding option, normally the preserve of more artistic pursuits. However on Friday, Caterham F1 launched such an initiative in a bid to ensure their place on the grid for the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi.

The team needs to find £2.35m by next Friday to survive and yesterday its page on crowdcube had received £500,000 with possible donations ranging from £1 to £45,000.

Fans who pledge their cash will be rewarded with everything from baseball caps to corporate hospitality at a race. Not surprisingly, those hedging their bets on Caterham's future haven't snapped up that last option.


Sunday Indo Sport