Tuesday 20 August 2019

Hurling is a simple game, so let's get back to the basics

Tom Dempsey's hurling analysis

Tom Dempsey
Tom Dempsey

Tom Dempsey

It has been almost compulsory over the past few years to comment on the state of Gaelic football with blanket defences, overly imaginative tactics and black cards certainly contributing to the declining entertainment value being served up in the big ball game.

I think however that it is now time to assess the route hurling has taken over the past couple of years as we trundle to another almost inevitable Kilkenny v. Tipperary All-Ireland in September after what has been a pretty uninspiring championship to date.

We need to be careful not to interpret a good All-Ireland final as a signal that all is rosy in the hurling world nationally.

Lately, I have been watching the 'Sunday Game' with a certain amusement as pundits micro-analyse games.

I think the hurling world needs to get back to its roots pretty quickly and appreciate that hurling is and always will be a simple and reactionary game which is very quickly losing some of the basic qualities that make it so enjoyable to watch.

The interactive screen used by Sky is best reserved for rugby and soccer, and I find the attempted usage embarrassing at times to watch. Tactics have a place in our game but of late teams have gone way overboard with them.

Donal Og Cusack was demonstrating the improved Cork style of play last week by showing a series of short passing movements with a number of short plays completed before the precise ball in delivered to the forward.

This is clearly his vision of how the game should be played but in my opinion it is the style of play that could end up causing a lot of destruction to the entertainment value of our game.

Think about it, the last seven or eight years have seen the complete removal of some of the most exciting and wonderful skills of the game.

Ground hurling is extinct, overhead striking gone, and the lift and pick that was so contributory to the speed of the small ball is no longer used.

The only way to re-introduce these skills is to coach them back into the game starting at a young age.

The game is becoming more and more about keeping possession and if things continue, the long, direct ball into the square will be the next casualty of the modern era.

Fifteen on fifteen man-for-man hurling is rare and although I would contend that the skill levels of today's players are at an all-time high, I feel if we continue to follow the road we are on it will damage the game in the long run.

There is a saving grace however and that is Kilkenny. The most successful team in the country continue to stick to the traditional values and there is surely a lesson here for all to follow.

If counties are to mimic a style then the Cats are surely the perfect role models in non-complication.

They will adapt during a game if necessary but are the perfect example of simplicity, with a manager who has no peers when it comes to hurling tactical ability.

I would love to see a team emerge over the next couple of years with ground hurling as its mantra to win an All-Ireland but I am pretty sure this won't happen.

At the very least we need to find some way to encourage teams to re-introduce some of the lost values I have mentioned or the old phrase, 'clash of the ash', will be no longer generate the hair-raising excitement of yesteryear.

The Munster Under-21 semi-finals during the week saw exits for Waterford and Tipperary, and I feel these results won't harm Wexford's quest for All-Ireland glory.

Finally, the attendances at our Cúl Camps over the past few weeks have been extraordinarily good. Well done to all who co-ordinate this wonderful summer facility, and there is no doubt that the G.A.A. doesn't receive enough credit for the service it provides to the youth of this country.

Wexford People

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