Derek McGrath ‘totally against’ any change to hurling rules

Derek McGrath hopes there are no rash calls to change the rules of hurling in reaction to how the number of goals have dropped. With more teams committing players to defence, attacking sides are finding it increasingly difficult to find the net as much as the 10 goals in last Sunday’s Division 1 semi-finals bucked the recent trend.

Former hurling development co-ordinator Paudie Butler has suggested games be increased to 80 minutes so that matches have more of an opportunity to open up.

However, McGrath doesn’t believe such a move is warranted.

“Who am I to disagree with Paudie — he’s an absolute icon within the GAA.

“But I’d be totally against any change to the game. If we try to change the game in any way, or if we try to over-analyse it in terms of what’s happening now, it becomes negative press.

“And then so much negativity becomes ingrained that people feel they have to do something.

“For me, there is nothing needed to be done. Clare set up with seven (in defence) the last day and scored 4-22.

“There are elements maybe in people’s approach, that while they might be defensive-minded, open up more attacking options. I’d be slow to change anything. I don’t think an 80-minute game is any solution. I think it’s probably over-analysis of the game itself.”

Waterford were blamed by ex-Kilkenny defender Eddie O’Connor for contributing most to a below-par hurling season in 2015. Speaking last September, he said: “The reason it has been a poor championship is the way Waterford set up. It didn’t help things. I don’t want to be too critical of them but facts are facts. The sweeper system does absolutely nothing and they were the people who brought it in.”

But, as McGrath points out, several teams are playing with more than the traditional six in defence.

“We’re not alone. Just look at the last round of league games: Wexford set up with seven against us, Clare set up with seven at the weekend, Limerick set up with seven. It’s changed. People are putting more and more thought into the game. But I don’t think it’s losing any of its instinctive nature as well. There are many moments of brilliance within the game. There’s a realisation now that tackling and winning that dirty ball, that ruck ball, is hugely important to any team’s development.

“People are putting more thought into winning the games at all cost.”

Derek McGrath was speaking at the launch of the new hurling developmental competition, The Celtic Challenge, for 16 and 17-year-olds not sitting state examinations. From May 4, a total of 38 county and regional teams will compete over seven weeks.


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