Is the art of ground hurling being lost?
Here’s a challenge for you. Listen to a radio commentary of a National Hurling League game this weekend, and note how many times the word “ruck” is mentioned. My bet is it will head close to double figures.
People lamented the style of hurling employed by Clare and Waterford in the drawn National Hurling League Final of 2016, where the game was played, for large parts, between the two 45 yard lines in Thurles.
When Clare won the All Ireland in 2013, their lightening style of play was hailed as taking the game to the next level, but just 12 months later, Kilkenny and Tipperary played out one of the most psychial finals in recent memory.
It’s a sign of the way the game has developed (not evolved) in recent years, with the increased pshyical aspect coupled with the need for keeping possession often leading to a gathering of almost a dozen players all trying to gain control of the little ball on the ground.
One man who knows plenty about winning All Ireland’s is Kilkenny’s Eddie Brennan, who feels that ground hurling has gone out of the game.
He said: “What’s disappointing for me about hurling at the moment is these big rucks that are developing and I think it’s probably because the ground hurling has gone out of the game. We don’t see anyone stepping in and letting fly on the ball or just pick and strike without even catching the ball. That lends itself to these big rucks where forwards are trying to get on the ball, and I think it’s a little blight on our game at the moment.
The 8 time All Ireland winner feels that coaching has a huge part to play in avoiding getting the game bogged down.
“As forward units you need to keep the ball moving fast, you need to keep the backs moving, whereas backs want to be able to monitor the attackers, stand in there, slow down the ball and get bodies in around it.
Brennan also feels that there’s a dangerous element to the rucks forming
“When lads are in there trying to get the ball, they’re bent over trying to get at it, and if someone comes in there and gives a hip into the neck or head, that’s going to do damage. Players are so well conditioned now, they’re up around the 13 or 14 stone mark, so if that comes in and hits you in the neck, it’s going to do harm”
It’s one that’s sure to be a big talking point in the 2017 season, maybe even taking over from the sweeper discussion.
How can you test that? If you’re at a game or watching it this weekend, keep track of the amount of groundstrokes you see.