The Paudie Palmer column: Hurling changed dramatically before this year

There's a debate about the state of the small ball game but it has long evolved to a possession-based sport
The Paudie Palmer column: Hurling changed dramatically before this year

Cork goalkeeper Patrick Collins has to do his best to keep possession at all times in the modern era of hurling. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THIS day last week there was a ransomware attack at the Department of Health, but it didn’t make the headlines until a far more successful attempt against the HSE in the early hours of Friday morning.

It is believed that the culprits involved are from Eastern Europe, who demanded cryptocurrency before they would hand back the files. The chances of these individuals appearing before Irish courts are similar to the odds of a Northern Ireland unionist singing the Republic’s national anthem at this year’s All-Ireland hurling final.

On Sunday afternoon, in the aftermath of the Limerick-Galway game, in which the ancient sport took another dip in the ratings, John Kiely, the Limerick manager, whose team lost, questioned the interpretation of the rules of the game, especially as regards fouls and frees. He bemoaned that for two weekends in a row, the focus after games was on debating the rules.

The downward spiral of hurling, if that’s your view, has been taking place for a lot longer than two weeks. Let us be honest: Hurling, akin to most other field sport, has become a game of possession.

LET IT IN

At one stage on Saturday, Damien Cahalane collected the sliothar and let rip. It travelled at least 60m, but because it ended up in the possession of a Tipperary player, the individual on video analysis almost set off the stadium alarm, such was the ‘offence’ committed by one of Cork’s leading dual players.

In the past, an entertainment industry of sorts grew up around the Irish international soccer team; maybe not so much around the action on the pitch, but around the panel discussions that ensued on the national broadcaster.

People tuned in to watch the commentary of the RTÉ panel, consisting of Eamon Dunphy and John Giles, and of other former soccer players and coaches, as they applied the critical knives to players or to managers, whether of league teams or of the national team.

A similar industry could grow around hurling pundits, who still find it hard to accept that the ash game is changing and that there may be a possibility that it is not the greatest game on the planet.

They have begun to borrow the terminology of other, ‘lesser’ sports, such as ‘sweepers’ and ‘middle third’ and ‘quarterback’.

Regardless of the state of hurling, one has to be impressed with the start that Cork have made to the league. The victory over Waterford was followed up by another committed, high-energy display against Tipperary. Part of Cork’s plan involves keeping the ‘green-flag men’ from requiring redundancy notices and the two against Tipperary ticked that box.

Normally, when a long-serving goalie takes the retirement package, some extra attention might be expected to accrue to the new kid on the block.

The fact that Patrick Collins has not made it into the coffee-break discussions is an indication of how well he has integrated into his role. Of course, to refer to him, or, indeed, to any other hurling shot-stopper, as a ‘goalkeeper’ could land one in dispute with the demarcation brothers.

A more correct term could be ‘restarter’.

Paul Flynn of Tipperary in action against Damien Cahalane of Cork at Semple Stadium last weekend. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Paul Flynn of Tipperary in action against Damien Cahalane of Cork at Semple Stadium last weekend. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

In the aftermath of the opening game against Waterford, Diarmuid O’Sullivan applied the term ‘finishers’ to highlight the importance of those that are decked out in the high-number jerseys.

In the Cloyne man’s own playing days, it was pretty much a case of the starters also being the finishers. On Saturday evening, those that came on landed the not inconsiderable contribution of five points.

In short, the hurling team is doing OK, and we should also mention the victories by both the intermediate and senior camogie teams in their opening games against Tipperary.

What caught our attention, in relation to these clashes, other than the victories, was the little fact that Courcey Rovers players captained both, with Linda Collins wearing the senior armband and Aisling Moloney leading out the intermediate team.

It was a unique and special honour for the Ballinadee/Ballinspittle outfit.

Courcey Rovers' Linda Collins wins the ball from Douglas' Seosai Mulrooney. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Courcey Rovers' Linda Collins wins the ball from Douglas' Seosai Mulrooney. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Sadly, the county senior footballers didn’t make it a weekend of Rebel celebration.

Yes, there were some injury absentees, but I am afraid that some of what was on view could cause us to readjust the expectancy dial.

Loath as I am to admit it, avoiding relegation is now an objective.

A loss against Laois next Saturday could mean that they would be only one defeat away from relegation, against a team from Division 2 North, more than likely Down or Westmeath. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Two aspects of the game disappointed. The first was the clean-out around midfield, particularly in the second half.

The second related to shooting, or the lack of it.

When Cork won the All-Ireland U20 title in 2019, Cathail O’Mahony, from Mitchelstown, was a serious forward operator in the success.

Last Saturday, he appeared to struggle somewhat and, over the next few weeks, one would hope that we will see evidence that the Mitchelstown youngster has added value since the 2019 Celtic Cross victory.

To ensure a glass-half-full finish this week, if Cork head out of Portlaoise on Saturday in possession of the victory laurels, the word ‘promotion’ could find its way into next week’s offering.

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