Cregan takes swipe at 'hurling scrum'

Eamon Cregan.

Ahead of the start of the Allianz Hurling League next weekend, former Limerick All-Ireland winner Eamon Cregan has lamented some of the dying arts of the game such as ground hurling.

Cregan has said that the clever use of such core skills could put an end to the 'hurling scrums' that can often blight games, when a throng of players scramble for a grounded ball and the referee has to blow up and throw the ball in.

The recent GAA Hall of Fame inductee also suggested that the standards of traditional defensive play - basic marking, hooking and blocking - have also slipped, given that teams can regularly score over 20 points in a given inter-county match.

“The speed of the game has increased enormously, so therefore there is no space. We have lost some of the skills like ground hurling," he said.

"Some of the best goals last year were scored off the ground and people were looking in awe at it but they were part and parcel of our game.

"Hooking, blocking...the batting seems to have gone out of it as well. To me, it’s tremendously exciting but the thing I worry about is the amount of points that are scored - 22, 23, 24, 25 points. That, to me, means there is somebody not doing their job. The game has certainly changed.”

He added: "You know this 'hurling scrum' that I call it, I think that's obnoxious. I hate it. There’s a ball there and everybody wants to go down and rise the ball and put it in their hand and burst their way out.

"All you have to do is just flick the ball into open space and the game goes on again. Instead of the ball being thrown in along the ground you throw it up in the air. Give it a go because this thing is terrible."

Cregan, who played for 19 years at senior inter county level, helped Limerick win the 1973 All-Ireland SHC title, four Munster Championships and a National League during that time.

A three-time All-Star at left corner forward, the highlight of his managerial career came in 1994 when he led Offaly to their third ever Liam MacCarthy Cup.

Still heavily involved in hurling, Cregan recently guided Mary Immaculate College of Education through to the quarter-finals of the Fitzgibbon Cup for the first time, with DIT their opponents this afternoon.

Of his own county, he has been pleased with John Allen's stewardship of the Limerick panel - noting their improved discipline - and a style of play which worked well in last summer's All-Ireland qualifier wins over Laois, Antrim and Clare.

“We’ve had a number of styles of play. Donal O’Grady’s style of play came in there two years ago, I don’t like it. Having played corner forward I can’t bear to see the ball going backwards and forwards across the field like that," he insisted.

“A forward wants the ball to come in fast and low and at an angle and here you are and you’re wondering, 'when the hell is the ball going to come in?'

“Effective, intelligent ball coming in is far better than hand passing, hand passing, hand passing. John (Allen) has come back a little bit off that and has brought a little bit more directness to the game.”

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