By Michael Moynihan - Irish Examiner
GAA PRESIDENT Sean Kelly yesterday expressed
his "concern" over one-sided NHL matches
while pointing out that the Hurling Development
Committee's plans for the future were designed
to improve standards at all levels of the game.
Wexford demolished Down by 41 points on Saturday,
prompting Wexford manager Seamus Murphy to say
such games were no good for hurling, while Dublin
lost to Kilkenny by 22 points, and Kelly acknowledged
that the heavy defeats were worrying.
"It's something that's been happening
for some time," said Kelly. "The margin
of victory is certainly bigger and though you'd
want to know what the likes of Down think about
losing games like that before drawing conclusions,
there's no doubt that it's a concern.
"That's the kind of issue the hurling
development committee are seeking to address
in their new plan."
Kelly is keen to point out that the plans for
hurling apply to different areas within the
sport: the elite inter-county element, developing
the second tier of counties and casual participation
"You have to have a mixture for the sport.
The senior inter-county championship is obviously
what people judge the game on, and the more
competitive that is, the more counties are involved,
the better for the promotion of the sport.
"For instance, Michael Greenan of the
Ulster Council has said that at U14 level, at
the Feile na nGael, Ulster counties can compete
with the traditional hurling counties, but by
the time they get to minor level the gap has
"They just don't have that constant exposure
to high-level hurling, so their speed and first
touch aren't as good."
Kelly welcomed the recent announcement that
Kerry club Kilmoyley are to compete in the Cork
City Division minor hurling grade.
"There has to be more cross-county interaction
like that, because if you're used to a higher
standard your skills and your attitude will
While hurling isn't a sport that lends itself
automatically to casual games of five-a-side,
Kelly and others in Croke Park are trying to
think laterally to encourage participation.
"You have to have people playing the game.
"In some big-ball games it's easier to
close the gap in terms of skill, and a less
skilful team can hold a skilful team.
"In hurling, a little extra skill makes
a big difference, and if a team has a little
extra skill all over the field that can lead
to an inordinate difference in scoring. Still,
the social and recreational group in Croke Park
is looking at hurling as a social game, which
would obviously bring benefits in participation."
One disadvantage hurling suffers from is obvious:
it costs more to buy two hurleys and a sliotar
than it does to buy a football. Kelly acknowledges
that funding is needed, but he also points to
the need for measurable progress.
"In fairness, we got €1.5m from the
Government for hurling and we'll be putting
in a similar amount ourselves. The HDC is looking
at issues but we're doing it realistically.
It's not just a matter of drawing up a plan,
the resultant projects are going to be measurable,
with set targets."