Butler, who served as Director of Hurling from 2006-11, has welcomed the recommendation of the Hurling 2020 committee to revive the role — the position was left vacant following the completion of Butler’s five-year term.
The former Laois boss says it is unacceptable a large percentage of children across the country have no outlet to play hurling and believes remedying this issue must represent the primary goal of his successor.
“Liam Sheedy understands the importance of this position because he spent time as a mentor with Tyrone and Longford, counties where the game is well down the pecking order,” said Butler.
“To centralise the game in a person who represents Croke Park in any area of the country where conditions might be favourable or unfavourable to hurling was a crucial link, and will be a crucial link again, I hope.
“I took up the post in 2006 and we made phenomenal progress. That our work will now be continued after a lapse of a couple of years is terrific. Was some of our work undone by the lapse in filling the role, I don’t know. Maybe the lull in between has given people at the top clarity about what the position achieved, what it could achieve and its overall potential.
“I was never informed as to why the position wasn’t continued in 2011. There is a little disappointment that hurling was seen to be neglected over the past couple of years. I am glad it is now back centre-stage.”
Sheedy’s group also propose the director take responsibility in implementing a “best practice template” to build the game outside the 10 Liam MacCarthy counties.
“When I first took up the job, I had to get out and visit as many places as I could. For the next director there is a base of excellent coaches in every county. The job won’t be as difficult as it previously was.
“I wouldn’t be overly concerned about increasing the numbers sitting at the top table. No matter what system is in place, you are always going to have eight to 10 teams in the elite section. What is not acceptable is that there is a sizeable population of this country that want to play hurling but have no chance, no outlet to do so because there is no club or coaching in their area.
“Hurling is supposed to be central to Irish culture. Children should not be deprived of taking up the game because of their geographical location alone. I know a lot people around the country who are angry they never got the opportunity to play. Nothing more than their geographical location dictated this.
“The development of clubs in areas where the game is not strong or even non-existent is crucial. The development of hub secondary schools that will serve these clubs is also crucial.
“There are specific counties that should be the immediate focus of this director. You have the four counties of Connacht, Galway excluded. Sligo and Mayo made great strides during my time, but these counties need continuous support. Donegal made great strides, as did Tyrone and Louth. The emergence of the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher competitions have made a fundamental difference in each of those counties. They have something to play for.
“We need to reward those trying to move up the ladder. The traditional counties are making a massive effort, but that is reflected in their clubs, who are working 11 months of the year. To bring a county who has only four clubs to a healthier position where they have 10 clubs is what we should look for.”
Butler also lent his support to the recommendation to make a second yellow card an automation substitution offence.
“This is a hugely sensible approach. Take for example the sending off of Dublin’s Ryan O’Dwyer in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final as a prime example of how this proposal will work. The first yellow card was marginal and then the match is decided because the rule book dictates that two yellows make a red. There have been plenty more examples where two soft offences did not merit a sending off.”
He rubbished suggestions the proposal will foster a culture of cynicism in the game. “The cynicism that has come in is pulling down a player for a penalty because under the existing rule the chances of converting a penalty are very slim. Proposing one-versus-one for the penalty is another sensible approach and removes the advantage that presently lies with the team defending the penalty.”