Weekend talking points: Hurling ‘rucks’ must be addressed

Fr Liam Devine blesses the new pitch at Dr. Hyde Park in Roscommon yesterday

A headache for hurling referees
The coming crisis in hurling? Policing the breakdown, much as we don’t like using the term. 

Yesterday in Nowlan Park referee Fergal Horgan allowed the traditional few seconds to let play develop over a ball spilled onto the ground, but the trend now seems to be to flood the area with players from all directions, all but preventing anyone from rising the ball. 

There’s an inherent danger here in that the later arrivals to the scene tend to announce their coming by leading with a hip, potentially dangerous to someone bent at the waist and rooting for a ball.

As noted, Horgan gave these rucks the usual time to resolve themselves, but even allowing for heavier underfoot conditions than expected in mid summer, this is a tendency that will have to be addressed. You read it here first.

Mayo fans voting with their feet

Late last week, there was mention of how Tralee’s hotels are all but sold out on March 18. 

Never mind that it’s St Patrick’s weekend, this was largely attributed to Dublin supporters as the All-Ireland champions come to the town to face Kerry that evening. 

Mayo’s followers, however, did plenty for Tralee’s accommodation industry last Saturday evening. 

The strong visibility of green and red in a few hotels before throw-in would have indicated just how well represented they were going to be in Austin Stack Park so much so at times it appeared Mayo were the home team. 

Clearly, the criticism levelled at their team by Noel Connelly and Pat Holmes has had no adverse effect on the numbers backing them. If anything, it may have galvanised them.

Who can beat Jim Gavin’s men?

Sixteen unbeaten for Eddie Jones’ England rugby team, 31 for the Dubs. 

Both runs came within minutes of being ended on Saturday and the accepted view is the best chance of catching either of these record-breaking sides will come on March 18 when England visit Dublin and Kerry make the trip to Tralee. Truth is, the window for catching Jim Gavin’s men is a narrow one. 

Unbeaten in Croke Park for two years, that highlights the task facing Mayo and Roscommon, both of whom visit HQ later in the league, and the Dubs will fancy their chances if/when they make the final there, too. 

Other league dates in Ballybofey and Clones look well within them - as does another Leinster title - all of which leaves Austin Stack Park as the likeliest scene of their demise.

Or could it be that their run will stretch to 39 as the All-Ireland series kicks off in August?

Cunningham’s challenge

It’s still mid-February but already we’ve had a stark reminder hurling is the poor relation of football in Dublin. 

Ger Cunningham’s hurlers are in transition after a closed season clear out of players while the Cuala contingent are absent until, potentially, late march. 

So Cunningham has been forced to blood new and young players sooner than expected and has tried out 41 different players since January 1 (including the Dubs Stars challenge). 

That level of experimentation has brought with it inevitable defeats, to Wexford in the Walsh Cup and Tipp at the weekend. 

In the same period the footballers have looked at even more players, 49 in total, yet are unbeaten in the league and are O’Byrne Cup champions. 

It’s a clear reminder the well of football talent runs deep in Dublin, certainly much deeper than its sister code.

Limerick’s league woes

In their six previous campaigns in the second tier, Limerick avoided defeat on the opening day of the league on all bar one occasion – 2012. 

Yesterday’s result at Wexford Park has them on the back foot straightaway in terms of securing promotion to the top tier and lumps pressure on new manager John Kiely. The board, in recent years, have made no secret of how strongly they prioritise promotion to Division 1A. 

Kiely said after the game he believes there will be “one or two more twists in the tale because it’s a very competitive division”. He’d better hope that rings true because promotion is once again out of Limerick’s control.

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