Hurling is heading down the same dangerous path as football. How long will it be before we see a tweet proclaiming the death of hurling?
Players are no longer allowed go out and hurl with freedom. They are being restricted and confined by systems, tactics and near-cryptic game plans. Freedom of expression is no longer a basic right.
Management must put in place certain plans, of course, but hurlers can’t be governed by tactics. It is bullshit what is going on nowadays.
Sunday’s Munster quarter-final game was the perfect example; a microcosm of the problem spreading through hurling. The first half was as bad a 35 minutes of hurling as we have ever seen in the Munster championship.
There was only one player in the first-half who expressed himself: Cian Lynch. He was doing things you expect hurlers to do. He seemed to be enjoying what he was doing. He wasn’t tied down by chains. He was flicking the ball over people’s heads. He was doing what no one else was doing: Entertaining us.
I know winning is most important, but we are now imitating our football counterparts. Indeed, segments of this Munster championship opener resembled a football match.
Limerick had a half-forward line and not one of them was getting on the ball. They were more concerned with defending. Clare, on the other hand, were congesting the middle.
Coaches are taking it a step too far and I’m concerned there are too many ‘coaches’ in the Clare dugout. Everywhere I turn, I am being told there are three and four hurling coaches in charge of the Banner.
Then, why is it that we haven’t won a championship game in over a year-and-a-half? Are there too many cooks boiling the broth?
There is no doubt Clare have a disciplinary problem. Limerick’s Shane Dowling hit 10 points from frees on Sunday and you can’t apportion blame there to the refereeing of Colm Lyons — though whether he should be refereeing at this level is a moot point.
Lyons was forced to interrupt play briefly to have a word with the ever-vocal Davy Fitzgerald. The Clare manager needs to take a step back, both on the line and in the manner he conducts himself after games. Players have always reflected their manager on the field and Clare are no different. Their indiscipline had me pulling my hair out on Sunday. Their tackling was reckless. Just as their manager questions every decision on the line, his players are now questioning match officials at every turn.
We heard a lot during the spring about the strict disciplinary measures enforced by the Clare management when players stepped out of line. Perhaps management need to take a look in the mirror.
Pat Donnellan, too, carried himself very poorly in Thurles. His strike on Donal O’Grady was a sending off offence and the disciplinary problems are accentuated when you consider his red card was Clare’s fourth in three championship games.
Donnellan, in his role as captain, should have been leading this team, not striking out at opponents. Here is the picture which emerged in Thurles: A manager barking at the referee over every free given and not given, a captain who couldn’t even control himself, never mind his team. Davy asked reporters afterwards did they believe Clare to be a dirty team. The disciplinary record of his players in their last three games speaks volumes.
Another faux pas was the decision to allow Domhnall O’Donovan remain on the field for 55 minutes. All players have an off-day and management could have helped O’Donovan by withdrawing him to the stand a lot sooner.
The Limerick sending off, meanwhile, was extremely harsh. Pat O’Connor went down far too easily.
Clare were missing big names against Limerick and it would be foolish to write them off just yet. Limerick, on the other hand, will know there is plenty of room for improvement ahead of their semi-final date with Tipperary on June 21.
Sunday was as bad a start to the Munster championship as we could have forecast: Poor discipline, poor hurling and poor refereeing.
Also, for all the systems and tactics on display in Thurles, it is encouraging to hear the discussion among true hurling folk centre on the performances of Cian Lynch and Aaron Cunningham. Their off-the-cuff endeavours were exceptional. Let’s pray they don’t become isolated.