Former Tipperary hurling manager Liam Sheedy fears the new tactical approach in the game may affect attendances, describing it as a ‘risk’ to the game.
Speaking ahead of yesterday’s NHL final replay, Sheedy said: “It’s just an awful lot is about tactics. It seems to be taking over. I think it’s a risk, it’s a risk for the game.
“John Mullane was talking about Clare and Waterford are looking like being the Cork and Waterford of previous times. But I would go 1,000 miles to watch Cork and Waterford from their time because it was absolute quality stuff, end to end stuff, man to man stuff, great scores, great goals, great matches, and really, I suppose, on the edge at times.
“I’ve seen balls being pucked the last day and three Clare backs, and any one of the three of them (could clear it) and vice-versa. And I’m not trying to take away from the quality of the play or the quality of the game, but the structure on the pitch is suffocating our best players.
“Henry Shefflin said it well when he said, ‘It’s actually more difficult when you’re on the ball now than when you’re not on the ball’. You’re a target for four or five lads to come and try and swallow you.
“The bulk of us are traditionalists... I’ve spoken about this before, the danger is the entertainment level. That’s what’s at risk here. I suppose if you’re a manager, and I was there, it’s win at all costs and teams are structuring themselves in terms of how they set up to give themselves the best possible chance of winning.
“But in a lot of cases, it’s not pretty. The first half last week was not pretty. I spoke to numerous people during the week and they said, ‘God I wouldn’t drive to Thurles to watch that again’. It opened up in extra time, seven points each, and I thought it was good fare.
“It’s change. Is it change for the better? I certainly don’t feel so.”
Sheedy believes Waterford need to change their attacking alignment for success. “Defensively they’re both sound. None of us would question that. If you look at it actually their attacking flair, there is a danger... I don’t think a one-man full-forward line will win the All-Ireland in 2016.
“I saw Maurice Shanahan above last year against Kilkenny on his own, Shane Bennett, last Sunday, up against Clare on his own. I think unless they change their attacking structure and their attacking options, I think they’ll come up short.”
Sheedy added: “Where Kilkenny continue to deliver is that their six forwards don’t mind if they see two lads in their zone. They’ll work through it. Those six forwards will work through seven. I think a lot of forwards who have real quality struggle with that work ethic to really get it.
“That’s why I think Kilkenny have still proven to be that step ahead because they just get on with it and they deal with it. It’s a danger for the summer. All I’m watching for here is entertainment level. We didn’t have a good hurling championship in 2015 in my view, one game stood out: Tipp-Galway. That was the best game of the season.”
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