Hurling superstar Seamus Callanan has revealed his belief that Tipperary will never deploy a sweeper and says he wouldn’t approve of the change if they did.
The back-to-back hurler of the year nominee was handed the difficult task of breaking down Cork’s buttressed defence in Sunday’s Munster championship tie.
William Egan operated as Cork’s extra defender and Callanan at times battled two defenders, though finished up with an eight-point haul and had a strong game overall.
Attacker Callanan could come up against another fortified defence next month when Tipp face Limerick in a Munster semi-final. The Shannonsiders overcame Dublin with the clever use of a sweeper in their league quarter-final.
League finalists Clare and Waterford, of course, both deployed sweepers in their recent final battles too, though Callanan didn’t mince his words when asked if hurling is as enjoyable to play now.
“The obvious answer to that is that hurling isn’t as enjoyable,” said Callanan. “Everyone knows that. You don’t need me to tell you that I think that. It spoils open hurling but sure whatever it takes teams to win, let them do it. We don’t play that way and never will.”
Callanan’s comments echo those made by top football forwards Paddy Bradley and Benny Coulter when blanket defending first caught hold in the big ball game.
Both Bradley and Coulter claimed football was going down a negative route at the time and Callanan suggested it’s the same for hurling now.
“Well I’d say when people take players out of their forward line I wouldn’t think that’s a positive route anyway,” he said.
“Players are experienced enough there to adapt to that on the pitch. Obviously going into a game you have to be aware of the opposition and what they might do.
“At the same time we’re more focusing on the positive things that Tipperary can do.”
Veteran Galway defender David Collins said this week that mass defending is probably a phase that will pass.
“I don’t think about it,” said Callanan. “I only think about how we play, which is 15 on 15. Any other sort of structure that any other county wants to use, they can use it all they want but it’s none of my interest.”
Like Callanan, Kilkenny manager Brian Cody has stated that the Cats will never go down the road of an extra man in defence. But current hurler of the year TJ Reid said just this month that the back-to-back All-Ireland champions may have to bow to pragmatism at some point and drop a man back.
Callanan said his strong hope is that Tipp never go that way. “Absolutely. I hope Tipperary don’t go that way anyway. I wouldn’t be approving of it if they did. Not that it’s my say or anything.”
It’s been suggested that crowds could fall at hurling games in line with the reduction in goals being scored. “I don’t know, the drawn league final was actually a great game, it finished up a great game,” said Callanan.
“I can’t talk for anyone else whether they will go to a match or not. Some people enjoy it. Maybe it’s making some other teams more competitive than if they played a different brand of hurling. Each to their own. It’s not my favourite style. It’s not the style I’d like to play but it is what it is. I think in Tipperary we have a belief in our system. We try and be positive in what we do. That’s the way we like to play so why should we change?”
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