WHEN contacted by the Sports Editor to write an article on the start of the season, I didn't think I'd be referring to an article at the end of the 2020 championship, complaining hurling was getting a bit boring.
The games I have seen so far haven't changed my mind. I know there is a lot of giving out about referees and maybe rightly so at times, but they are definitely not responsible for the way the games are being played. That's down to managers and coaches. They are sending out their players with every type of game-plan, mostly very negative and with systems that are making players very robotic and not allowing them to express themselves.
All we hear is lovely flowery language from managers and coaches and some pundits. Buzz words like 'playing through the lines' and 'the process'. I am a long time involved with hurling and if the process is not working, you change it! Common sense.
I also believe that a lot of the tactics in hurling now are being brought in from Gaelic football, God forbid, and also rugby. These games are as different as chalk and cheese to hurling.
Is it because there are a lot of football people involved in hurling now? I think it is. We all know the way the game of football has gone, is hurling going the same way? Negativity the order of the day from U10 coaching up along.
I think hurling should nearly always be entertaining. It is one of the best field games in the world, but not the way it is being played at the moment. I know it is a results-business, but it is still an amateur pastime. There are some fantastic players around but they are being completely controlled by the so-called gurus of the game.
We always need people to be entertained and feel exhilarated after a game for it to continue as the wonderful spectacle that it always was.
Referees have an important part to play here. One time a referee was merely told to throw the ball in to get the game started and then to get out of the way. In fairness, most did that, but now they want to be seen to be directing everyone. I think a bit of ego has crept in, especially when the game is televised. My advice is please let the game flow unless there is a major offense when strict rules have to be applied.
Last weekend's game saw Cork take on Tipperary in Thurles.
This was nothing like the games I'd seen in the past between these two old rivals. I know it is early in the year, but the number of mistakes from both sides was quite remarkable; some really bad wides from Tipperary, very unlike them, but I think Cork were even worse with some of the mistakes they made. They conceded a lot of silly frees by throwing the ball and also a lot of unnecessary fouling.
I know they are gone back to this running game that they had in the early noughties but the type of very skillful player they had then to execute that game was very different to the type of player they have now. I suppose it is early days yet but the errors were worrying.
I think Cork must settle their team. I know they have to try lads out but I think settling the starting 15 is more important.
They also seem to be moving their players around and I think this can have an unsettling effect on them. A perfect example of this is Tim O'Mahony, going from wing-back to midfield. Darragh Fitzgibbon, one of the best midfielders in the country, started at half-forward.
Cork need to settle their defence too. Mark Coleman was outstanding at centre-back but will he be there come championship? He reads the game very well and is a very good distributor but might have a problem with a big physical player, which he will meet come championship time.
I'm sure Kieran Kingston and his management know most of their championship team so they must give them game-time.
Tipperary are depending on older players. Liam Sheedy seems to be very loyal to them and they have been outstanding but they have a lot of mileage on the clock and it's ticking very fast. He needs some new blood, but Tipp will always be a danger.
The other game on show at the weekend was Galway and Limerick. Plenty of physicality on both sides. Galway matched Limerick all over the field and seem like a team that have a lot of work done, a lot more than Limerick at this stage anyway.
There is no love lost between these two and if they meet again, and if crowds are allowed back in, tickets will be very hard to come by. A very explosive game would be on the cards. And isn't that what supporters love?
Galway deserved to win here but expect an improvement from Limerick. Hunger could be an issue. They've won a lot, All-Irelands, All-Stars, Hurler of the Year awards.
I was surprised at John's outburst after this game accusing Galway of diving and roaring for frees. Even if they did, he should have kept his powder dry and in the locker for another day.
He is usually very shrewd and doesn't do outbursts like that, maybe he has his reasons, or is it just the start of the mind games? Sometimes these things can come back to bite.
Hope we have better games this weekend. Bad and all as it's been, it's still good to be back.