The practice of sledging is all but non-existent in top level hurling, according to Henry Shefflin and Pat Horgan.
Neither claim to have encountered any of the verbal abuse detailed by Tyrone footballer Sean Cavanagh earlier this week when he said the wives, girlfriends and families of players were regarded as fair game in an attempt to rile opponents.
“I’ve never come across it,” said Shefflin, at the launch of Centra’s healthy living initiative. “I came across the odd macho thing more than anything else — ‘You’re soft’ or whatever — but that was basically it.
“I’m obviously reading what you’re writing so it seems to be the thing that it’s getting personal, by all accounts, and I’ve never seen or heard it on a hurling field in all my years. I would definitely feel it’s not a hurling thing. That’s my own personal experience playing the game and from anyone you speak to… I’ve never come across it.”
Cork’s Horgan can’t understand why a player like Tyrone defender Justin McMahon would spent almost the entirety of last Sunday’s Ulster SFC preliminary round match trying to upset Michael Murphy’s game. “Michael Murphy, a man hanging off him, I don’t know how someone wants to go around doing that as a job. It just bugs me, I have no time for it anyway.”
It’s not that Shefflin considers hurling to be holier than thou but the culture and the nature of hurling is different to Gaelic football.
When he came on a substitute in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick, Gavin O’Mahony “welcomed” him to the game.
“Well, he gave me a shoulder and I gave him one back! But no, that’s it. And I’ve never experienced it — a lad misses a free and he says something like ‘you missed a free’ but that’s basically it. From talking to different players hurling-wise, it seems to be something that’s crept into the game of football. You would hope that it just doesn’t creep into the game of hurling. I don’t imagine it will.”
Shefflin, like Horgan, believes the speed of the sliotar means hurlers don’t have the opportunity to be try and rub their markers up the wrong way.
“With the football, because there’s runners going left, right and centre, they’re banging each other and blocking a run, and next thing the lads fall on the ground, they get up and they say something to each other.
“With hurling, we don’t have that because the ball is gone 50 or 60 yards and that’s it, the play is over that side of the field. So I’d imagine that’s probably helping the game of hurling; there’s not that same level of physical contact.”
Shefflin was astonished last year when he heard footballers were going to the lengths of finding out the names of opponents’ family, wives and girlfriends’ names to antagonise them.
“I couldn’t believe it. There was a rumour of that last year, that I’d heard at one or two of the football matches. And anyone who said it to me I said, ‘No, I don’t believe you’. It’s only when players are starting to come out now and actually say it, and I think you’ll hear more of it creeping out now as well, different players saying it. I just find it absolutely crazy. I think management as well need to step up to the mark and say ‘Look, lads, this is not going to happen on my shift.’”
Horgan did acknowledge the odd remark has been made to him as he has stood over a free. “I’ve heard it before... you’d be able to block it out.”
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