Hurling revamp raises questions

1 If you were interested, by which I mean worried, by the supremacy of Gaelic football, your worries are over, going by a first glance at the proposed hurling fixtures for 2018. There’ll be a lot more hurling games next year, but what does that mean, asks Michael Moynihan.

Hurling revamp raises questions

2 An earlier national hurling league, for instance, is likely to ask questions of teams’ strength and conditioning coaches. Are they going to train through to store up fitness for the travails of summer, and how will the Fitzgibbon Cup be managed?

That’s not even mentioning pre-season competitions like the Munster Senior Hurling League and the Walsh Cup: these have been part of the calendar along with the national league and colleges competitions for a while, but how will S&C coaches accommodate the huge increase in midsummer games?

3 While we’re on that topic, what does the increased games mean for the ages of the players being conditioned? Will teams now rely on more seasoned athletes who can take the physical and mental punishment rather than the younger players who’ve figured in recent years?

4 No-one is interested in the media’s travails, but covering those games will be a challenge. Will all contests receive equal weight in terms of coverage?

5 The last point’s importance goes far beyond the self- absorption of the fourth estate. Managers tend to fret about the attention paid to their players’ misdemeanours, and some are convinced that the GAA’s disciplinary machinery cranks into a higher gear if a fuss is made about certain widely-seen and discussed incidents compare to others. Surely some mistake, I hear you say?

6 What are the implications for the pool of referees available for the inter-county game? There was a good deal of grumbling about matters missed and matters which weren’t missed last season by top officials. What happens when the games start mounting up and up?

7 Whether you regard your county team’s games as events requiring compulsory attendance, the impact on people’s pockets will be significant. Some flexible thinking a la the Tipperary County Board’s offer of five county finals over a weekend for €20 would be welcome.

8 Expect a flood of information from data nerds and stat freaks. The traditional knock against in-depth analysis of patterns and statistics in hurling has been the smaller sample size than football. All that changes next year, doesn’t it?

9 So will there really be a hurler of the year? There are so many levels of competition - pre-season, league, provincial, All-Ireland knockout, not to mention U21 — that it can’t be feasible, really, to expect a player to be dominant from January to August, can it?

10 Who said it’s always given to the best player in August anyway?

11 Just on point 5 as it occurs — what about the ramifications of appealing suspensions and cards as games roll week to week? Will we face more names being ‘cleared’ the morning of a match, with according chaos for managers? And the compilers of programmes?

12 Everyone’s been lighthearted about Walsh Park, but it won’t be funny whensummer rolls around. Cork needed €80 million and two years for Pairc Uí Chaoimh, and Waterford have six months to get their stadium ready for the championship.

13 The club fixture issue. That hasn’t gone away simply because people ‘acknowledge’ that there’s an issue. It’s counterintuitive, at the very least, to suggest that problems finding dates for fixtures at one level will be solved by using up dates for fixtures at another level. Will club fixtures get the room on the calendar they deserve?

14 What about counties which are genuinely fulfilling the GAA’s game promotion mandate in both counties? What are they to do when they’re effectively punished for committing to hurling and Gaelic football?

15 It’s an alternative to the football anyway. Isn’t it?

LaMotta had rage but Ray was real deal

I enjoyed writing a Final Lap about Jake LaMotta — not so much because of him but because it sent me back to a mainstay of the house I grew up in, In This Corner by Pete Heller, a series of interviews with former boxing champions.

It also sent me back to the astonishing career of Sugar Ray Robinson, who is now not as well known as LaMotta, unfortunately.

Robinson was good enough to fight for the light-heavyweight championship of the world though he was a middleweight. The night he did so, the temperature was 39 degrees, but Robinson led champion Joey Maxim on all three judges’ scorecards until the 13th round, when he collapsed from the heat. He’d outlasted the original judge, however, who’d collapsed two rounds earlier. Robinson toured Europe with an entourage of 13, including a dance teacher and someone who measured his sweat.

Great days.

Sport ticketing in a league of its own

I didn’t dwell too deeply on tickets elsewhere on the page, because I am reliably informed that there is not one investigation going on into ticketing for large-scale events going on at present, but two.

The Department of Business, Enterprise (DBEI), and Innovation has been asking people in to chat about tickets, touting, and related matters, and so have the Competition Authority, in a separate investigation.

Am also told that the DBEI investigation may be more significant for all sorts of reasons, not least that it is more directly linked to the creation and implementation of policy.

All of which may mean more to you if you’re being tortured by a sadist who may — or may not — sell you a couple of Ed Sheeran tickets, but sports ticket prices have been an ongoing problem for many years (no ticket agencies per se, which is a whole other category of problem, as we all know.) If you are wondering about the relevance of these investigations to, say, the sudden explosion in GAA games next year, for instance, consider the venues which are eminently suited to electronic ticketing, and which are not. Soon you see that the need for fair and honest ticketing isn’t just a matter for All-Ireland finals.

Could Grant bio get hip-hop treatment?

I soldiered through Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton with Dr Johnson’s words about Paradise Lost echoing around the room (a great work, but no-one has ever wished it longer).

However, Chernow’s new book looks pretty interesting, a full biography of Ulysses S Grant. Not sure about the potential for a hip-hop musical adaptation, but I’m sure they felt the same about Alexander Hamilton. Only time will tell.

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