Cusack wants standard ball to head off sliotar controversies

Dónal Óg Cusack has claimed that a standardised sliotar for hurling is urgently required.

The Clare coach and former Cork goalkeeper declined to discuss the theft of current Rebels ’keeper Anthony Nash’s sliotars before last Sunday’s Munster final.

It’s understood that the individual who stole the bag and threw it into the Killinan End terrace had links to the Clare management team.

Cusack said that the Clare management had dealt with that issue in a statement on Tuesday and refused to add to it.

But he spoke at length about what he termed the pressing need to introduce a standard sliotar to the game.

Cusack, who quit punditry to work with Clare, revealed that he identified various instances of sliotar skullduggery while watching games though didn’t comment on them publicly.

“On The Sunday Game sometimes I’d be watching out for things,” said Cusack. “I saw things happening in the Championship a couple of years ago. I watched it, and I looked around at everybody else but nobody else picked it up. And it was around sliotars. So I said nothing.

“Because when there is not a standard, these things will happen. I remember when I was playing I would file off (sliotar rims) because I wanted to hit a consistent shot.

“I would be filing the rims down to take the edge off them because when I was playing I wanted that consistent ball all the time.”

GAA Director of Games Pat Daly stated earlier this year that efforts are underway to launch standardised, micro-chipped sliotars in time for spring 2018.

There has been no confirmation of this yet though and with around a dozen different sliotar manufacturers providing balls, Cusack argued that it is badly needed.

“There is such a difference between balls,” continued the Cloyne man. “Every ball I see now has an official stamp on it but some balls still travel 20 yards further than others and waver in the air.

“If you went around club matches and got 10 balls and got the same man striking them, he’d strike them different distances.

“You’d have balls with big rims and you’d see them wavering in the air because of the shape of the rims. I’d fully support standardising the ball because everyone is on the one playing field.

“I always felt that the association should be putting balls in play that facilitated a higher quality of game. I do understand the argument that people are making that the ball is travelling too far and stuff like that.

“I understand that argument but I also understand the argument that the part of our game, the beautiful part of our game, is accurate passing.

“I remember Jimmy Barry-Murphy saying to us with Cork, ‘lads, don’t let anyone say to you that better games were taking place years ago. What blew that out of the water was TG4 and All-Ireland Gold’.

“It’s like Christy Ring said, the greatest players are with us now and the greatest players are coming so we should be trying to facilitate them I would think.”

Cusack revealed how the lack of a single, standard sliotar led to him pulling off a bold act of gamesmanship in the 2005 Munster final against Tipperary.

“We practiced it, that if there was a penalty given, that one of us would cause a diversion, give out to the referee, all get around him, whatever,” said Cusack. “And that another ball, we’d roll in. The important thing was that it shouldn’t be me rolling it into play. The original ball would be just struck away.

“You’d be planning things like that but it might never come off. But then in the Munster final, ball comes in, Diarmuid O’Sullivan gives away a penalty and everyone kicks into gear.

“That ball that was in use is driven away and the next minute the other ball was rolled in. I remember looking at Eoin Kelly and I says to myself, ‘that ball is not going to go as hard as you think it’s going to go’.”

Kelly’s penalty was ultimately saved and Cork responded by scoring a point shortly after with the same ball. Cusack also recalled an incident of an umpire confiscating a number of his sliotars during a game while playing for the Cork minors.

“I remember with about 15 minutes to go he actually took the balls off me,” said Cusack. “Whatever was going on, I don’t know. I actually gave them to him because we were winning by so much.

“Four years later, I’m playing the All-Ireland final in 1999. Same thing, we’re going to use our own balls. I go down into the net, and the bag has been turned inside out. I know that I’ve put my sliotars (into this bag), it had red and white on the outside and now it’s inside out.

“And I said to the umpires, ‘What’s been going on with my sliotars?’ They said, ‘See that fella over there, he came over and emptied all your balls’. He had turned the bag inside out and put them back in, for whatever reason. And I looked over and it was the same man.

“I remember going over and I said to him, ‘I ain’t a minor now. Don’t go near these balls for the rest of the game’. I could tell you another hundred stories around similar types of instances with sliotars.”

Meanwhile, Cusack has also called for the introduction of a luminous sliotar which, he claimed, would be easier to see during flight than a white ball.

“It’s a proven fact that your eye reacts faster to a luminous coloured ball, it’s a scientific fact and we want kids picking up the game quicker,” he said.


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