Hurling is on a high right now but why is football the ugly duckling? 

Hurling is on a high right now but why is football the ugly duckling? 
A general view of action during the Aer Lingus Fenway Hurling Classic at Fenway Park in Boston. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“HE NOW felt glad at having suffered sorrow and trouble, because it enabled him to enjoy so much better all the pleasure and happiness around him” - Hans Christian Andersen

DEBATE and differing opinions really are the cornerstones for the armchair sports enthusiast.

A game simply never ends when the final whistle is blown.

In fact, the game is just the lettuce in a scrumptious BLT. Everything is 50 shades and nothing is ever simply black or white.

Why did she start? What was he doing for the first goal? Why wasn’t he brought on earlier? Where to now?

But no matter the advances in modern medicine, we will never have the perfect foresight that would render hindsight redundant.

And this is a blessing.

Isn’t it great that no matter how much you try to convince a family member, friend, colleague or even an egg on Twitter about the merits of your opinion on a game there will always be a dissenting voice?

Used appropriately, any debate can be good for the soul.

It might not appear that way at times, but executives and decision makers do take note of all this debate and opinion.

But it’s how they react, manage and conclude on these voices which will be crucial for the health of their game.

The FAI, for example, are under increasing pressure this week and are being bombarded with disgruntled, and probably even worse, disappointed, voices about their management of the game in Ireland.

Audiences are falling at home internationals, the senior team are floundering and the revenues are stagnating.

Ireland's Cyrus Christie with Lasse Schone of Denmark. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Ireland's Cyrus Christie with Lasse Schone of Denmark. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

On top of all that their counterparts in the IRFU are thriving.

The national soccer team haven’t scored a goal in four internationals but the rugby team are just after beating the world champions.

It’s a simple comparison to make isn’t it?

A knee-jerk reaction from the FAI to the constant criticism that has come their way over the last 12 months could see the game fall deeper into troubled water though.

There is no doubt they are concerned, there is no doubt they are worried and there is no doubt they won’t be happy with the current state of affairs.

But they’re not inclined to panic in the face of just dissenting voices.

Any decision they make will need to be followed with a plan and a decisive one at that.

A plan that will generate an upturn in performance, audience and revenues.

A very tricky combination to achieve.

So that brings me nicely to my opinion of what is currently happening in the GAA circles with the ‘greatest game in the world’ and its ugly sibling.

It has, unfortunately, been a rough few years for football, all the while hurling has flourished. The pressure of winning, and winning at all costs, has meant that football has taken the defensive (negative) route towards glory whereas hurling has gone down the attacking at all costs (positive) route in search of same.

It has led to a huge divergence in the entertainment barometer of both games as judged by us, the viewing public. Now, don’t get me wrong, entertainment is a massive part of any sport.

It brings the supporters, the competitors, the excitement and it brings the revenues that allow the game to grow and grow. But is hurling growing at inter-county level as result of this year's championship?

You could argue it’s not.

Yes we are living in a golden age of incredible contests but can you see a way forward for the smaller ‘counties’ to grow amidst all of this adulation for the stronger ones and is this something that requires focus?

I would be of the opinion that it is. I ask, what is the plan to develop the game in these small weaker counties and make the game national rather than working to make it international for example?

Should the last two weekend’s international television budgets have been invested in county or provincial final coverage across the country? It’s just an opinion.

Football, on the other hand, is currently seen as the ugly sibling and the one that requires a make-over. This operation transformation started a few months ago with the six proposed new rules for the game in 2019.

Stephen O’Brien fires a goal for Kerry against Cork this summer. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Stephen O’Brien fires a goal for Kerry against Cork this summer. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

This, for me, is a knee-jerk reaction to a game which has stood the test of time since the formation of the association.

I am all for tweaks and I am all for necessary changes to be made and evaluated but wholesale changes will come with knock-on negative consequences.

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the game at this juncture.

The fitness levels have never been so high, the amount of work going into a campaign has never been as intense and the commitment levels are through the roof for an amateur game.

But it is being ridiculed from pillar to post as its most comparable form of combat is going through a golden age of entertainment.

And worst of all, the people making the decisions about the future of the game of ball are listening to these dissenting voices and trying to correct it in one big bang, knee-jerk reaction.

For hurling, going on trips to Sydney and Boston is all fine and well.

I actually think the players from the competing counties deserve treats like this but to promote on live TV at the expenses of growing the game nationally or supporting the local club championship is a debate that does require some consideration and further debate.

As for football, I wish modern medicine would just hurry up and give us the hindsight that we crave to look into the future as to how the game will develop over next two to three years because I think, and it’s just my opinion, much like the ugly duckling, it can flourish without the manufacturing.

More in this section

Sponsored Content