Monday 11 December 2017

have your say

Hurling needs its own guiding body

Having read John Greene's article [Dec 1] and being a follower of Gaelic games for almost 80 years, I feel I have to beg to differ with him through the auspices again of your good paper.

However, he was right in one respect. The GAA is a democracy. That is its strength. It could also be its weakness. If the Dáil met only once a year to pass laws, it would not be good for our democracy. Likewise the GAA Congress, which meets only once a year, though it is vital to its role as a ruling body of giving overall guidance and maintaining principles, it is too blunt an instrument to regulate individual bodies within it. Neither can it fine-tune, on an ongoing basis, its playing rules.

Hurling and football are two very different games, and they need different guiding bodies under the umbrella of the GAA authority, just like handball. Many hurling followers have felt over the years that they suffered as a result. That became very evident in the effort to clean up football. The same rules were applied to both games, coloured cards etc, even when the games needed different remedies.

Thanks to our new president, we had a football commission. Now we need a hurling one. Sports writers felt however that the football commission accomplished little. However, they did not source the real cause of the problem. Perhaps their brief was too limited. It was to clean up football. Maybe we needed to get back to fundamentals. All the attractive football games that were raved about this year were those where the ball was kicked a lot. It was football not 'throwball'. We have to ask why the handpass came into existence in the first instance. Most people do not even remember. They are not old enough, or have forgotten.

This is the reason. The old rule 145 was not understood or implemented properly. It said, 'The ball must not be held longer than is necessary to hop, kick or fist it away'. But the same rule allowed you to take four steps while holding the ball. Obviously the latter must have meant that in the act of kicking it, you can take four steps. Normally you do that anyhow in the act of kicking. But then referees began to allow a player take the four steps before trying to kick the ball. So this was used by players to try to get past their opponents. What can a player do if his opponent is just going to run past him? There is no official tackle in hurling or football. It was meant to be a game of skill not strength. So entered the half-tackle. We are trying to clean up the game ever since. The handpass only made things worse.

The same was true of hurling. Take Rule 150 Note 1 in the old book. It seemed clear enough. 'A player may not hold a ball longer than is necessary to puck it away'. That was not implemented. It was at first relaxed, then neglected and ignored and finally changed. So all the physicality got into hurling too. To correct it would not be difficult. Dónal Óg Cusack, I think, said 'skills are determined by rules'. He is right of course. Hurling is still a great game, but it has lost a lot of its skills, like ground hurling, overhead striking and so on.

It began to go wrong in hurling about 60 years ago. It only began then. But, as Shakespeare said, 'Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill'. So I hope the hurling commission, which we hope our president will form, will dig into our past a little to see when and where things went wrong.

Hurling suffered a lot too by the attempts to clean up football. Coloured cards are not a help in hurling. In hurling, a score can be got from 80 or 90 yards. That is penalty enough. The yellow card is not needed. It can do harm. What is needed however is a five- or ten-minute cooling period in the sideline for a dangerous, but not deliberate, stroke. Otherwise if that is not there retaliation is likely.

I am sure a commission when it is formed will look into all these things. I also hope that power-sharing in some shape or form will be part of its agenda so that hurling which is a minority sport, as compared to football, in the GAA will be properly provided for and promoted.

James Neville

McKeown shows how other half live

Frank McKeown is hardly a name which would ring many bells with Irish soccer supporters but, in my book, he was the real hero of last weekend. The captain of Stranraer is a clear example of how the other half lives in 'the beautiful game'.

On the last day of November McKeown finished his duties as a firefigher at the scene of the Glasgow helicopter tragedy at 8.0am before lining out for his club in the 2-2 Scottish Cup afternoon draw with Clyde. His double role is in stark contrast to some of the so-called superstars who might like to have valets to perform simple duties like putting on their boots. It's a funny old game alright!

Eric Rice

Sunday Independent

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