Speaking after last Saturday’s win over Dublin under the Croke Park lights, Ryan said: “It’s never going to be pretty and I’m not a fan. I’ll probably get shot by the GAA for saying it, but I’m not a fan of this night-time hurling.”
Expanding his argument to the Irish Examiner, Ryan remarked the brilliance of the artificial lighting distracts players, although he appreciates the reasons why the GAA schedule evening games.
“Being honest, I just don’t think hurling is conducive to it. I think the standard of lighting you would need is Croke Park-like. We’ve good floodlights in Thurles and we do as much work as we possibly can (under them), but the quality of our hurling and everyone else’s hurling changes dramatically once we can hurl in the evenings without them. There’s just no comparison. I see the appeal of it. Like other sports, going to a game on a Friday or Saturday evening can be far more social. There is a lot more resistance to getting to a game on a Sunday. I understand the drivers as to why you would like to have night-time hurling but the issue is when the ball goes up to a certain height you can get blindsided where guys have lost the flight of the ball. I’ve seen that happen time and time again.
“For me, it’s a bit easier to play football under lights but I’m not qualified to comment much about that. I would love the idea of a Saturday night game but during the summer at six o’clock or even seven o’clock when you have daylight it would be a great evening out.”
Saturday’s Cork-Dublin game in Páirc Uí Rinn is the second of four Division 1A floodlight games, while the Laois-Offaly fixture that same evening is the first of three in Division 1B. With a 4.45pm throw-in time, Saturday’s All-Ireland Club IHC final between Ahascragh-Fohenagh and Carrickshock in Croke Park will also be illuminated.
Ryan is not alone in his belief – national hurling development manager and former Kilkenny selector Martin Fogarty has spoken out about his opposition to floodlit hurling. Last year’s All-Ireland finalists Tipperary and Kilkenny will face each other under lights in Thurles on March 11.
For Ryan, an error caused by floodlight glare is obviously a concern but he also raised the possibility of a player hurting themselves. “Thankfully, we haven’t seen it yet but a bad injury might happen too where somebody loses perspective and runs into the end of the hurley. I know fellas these days are well protected with faceguards and helmets but it could happen.”
Ryan has an issue anyway with top-level hurling being played at this time of year. “I’m not a fan of spring hurling either. The page gets very long if you want to hear about all the things I’m not a fan of. Look, it’s very difficult for fellas to play hurling at the moment. Fellas have been playing colleges this week and I’d say the ground conditions were very difficult. Needless to say, it doesn’t stop the boys competing.
“The Fitzgibbon Cup is a fantastic development piece for players in terms of transitioning up to senior players. Some of them are already senior hurlers but transitioning up from minor to U21 or U21 to senior it’s a fantastic transitioning piece.
“Obviously, it’s hugely important for the universities and the colleges but it’s played in terrible conditions. Look, it’s the same with schools. Harty Cup is on next weekend and it has evolved over the last three months and it can’t be avoided because that’s when the kids are in school and it has to come out of the way of exams and things like that.”
Ahead of Sunday’s visit to Walsh Park, Waterford’s Derek McGrath has lauded Tipperary but Ryan won’t be falling into any false of security. “I think it goes with the territory,” he said of McGrath’s compliments. “We talk up Kilkenny a lot, we talk up Waterford a lot and I’m going to talk up Waterford again – they’re an excellent side. We saw what they did against Kilkenny, a real competitive game, much like they did last year. We’re under no illusions about this one, it’s going to be a ding-dong game. They are the games we love. You never play a game of hurling where you don’t find out something.”
John O’Keeffe (ankle) is out of the game. Donagh Maher also picked up a knock against Dublin and was replaced as a precaution but should be okay. “We’re not bad at all,” said Ryan, who will be hoping his student players came through yesterday’s final two Fitzgibbon Cup quarter- finals unscathed. “Cathal Barrett is the long-term one – he had an operation on an ankle so he’s in rehab. We’re in good shape for this time of year.”