Retiring Rock calls for change

CORK hurling legend Diarmuid O’Sullivan has called on the GAA to market its games more attractively, comparing the presentation of hurling and football championship games to the marketing of Munster rugby.

O’Sullivan, who reveals his intercounty retirement in today’s Irish Examiner, called on the GAA to review its own structures.

“A couple of weeks ago the GAA blew hundreds of thousands of euro up in their own fireworks in those 125th anniversary celebrations.

“I go to Newry in Down a bit, and other counties, and they’re crying out for hurling development and ball alleys, for money to be pumped into hurling.

“It makes no sense to me to waste money like that when it can be put to better use.

“You go to Thurles and the music that’s being played is from the forties, there’s no craic in there, the atmosphere is dead.

“Go to a Munster rugby game – they’re playing modern music, a guy is going around the field building up the buzz and the intensity, telling you when the teams are going to come out . . . the GAA has to act.

“The show that was put on in the Millennium Stadium before the Heineken Cup final last year was unbelievable. I came home from that and felt that if I were a young fella starting out, what would I want to be?

“The GAA needs to modernise: it’s trying to nullify contact in the games, and it’s not investing money where it should be.”

O’Sullivan expanded on what he sees as the GAA’s attempt to ‘nullify contact’ in the games, focusing on the experimental playing rules which were narrowly abandoned at this year’s Congress.

“The new rules? They were football rules for hurling.

“The GAA seems to want to make hurling a non-contact sport, but when people go to a championship game they want to see that toughness, the hustle and bustle.

“Fellas are afraid to shoulder another player now because if they mistime it and catch him on the chest then they could get three months.”

O’Sullivan also revisited the Semplegate affair two years ago, after which he, Donal Óg Cusack and Seán Óg O hAilpín were suspended following clashes with Clare players ahead of their Munster SHC clash in Semple Stadium.

“On Semplegate, I felt we were unbelievably harshly treated by the GAA that time. I felt we were left down.

“Credit to the Cork County Board, they backed us to the hilt, but we were very harshly treated.

“On the evidence we asked why John Gardiner was left off. ‘Because he walked away’ was the answer. Well, we all walked away. I gave a guy a shoulder; I did the same ten minutes into the game and it wasn’t even a free.

“I think we were made an example of. Laois and Offaly belted each other the same day with hurleys, while we gave each other a few shoulders. Seán Óg O hAilpín was suspended but the lad he was involved with – who did the same as Seán Óg – walked away with nothing.”

O’Sullivan won three All-Ireland senior hurling medals with Cork in 1999, 2004 and 2005, and also played senior football with the county in the 2002 Munster final and All-Ireland series.

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