Henry Shefflin: Sledging is only a football problem
Hurling too fast for lippy brigade to thrive
THE football championship is barely up and running and already we have a hot topic of debate to vex the minds.
Sledging. Of the up-close-and-personal variety.
The issue was brought centre-stage, firstly by the apparent antics of some Donegal and Tyrone man-markers during their hot-and-heavy Ulster SFC opener ... and then by Seán Cavanagh's interview, appearing in Tuesday's newspapers, underscoring the extent of the problem both last Sunday and generally.
Yesterday it was the turn of two leading hurlers to reflect on sledging and its presence - if any - in the rival code.
And Henry Shefflin and Patrick Horgan were united in their assertion that personalised verbal abuse simply doesn't exist in hurling.
Both men were mystified at the trend in football, while Horgan was bemused by the extremes to which Justin McMahon took his man-marking duties against Donegal's Michael Murphy.
"I see it in the football there at the weekend," said the Cork marksman, "Michael Murphy and you'd a man hanging off him. I don't know how someone trains for seven months to go around doing that as a job. It just bugs me. I don't know - I've no time for it anyway."
As for sledging in hurling, Shefflin declared: "To be honest, I've never come across it."
Speaking at the Centra launch of its GAA-endorsed product range, the Kilkenny legend expanded: "I came across the odd macho thing more than anything else - 'You're soft' or whatever - but that was basically it."
He described the 'welcome' afforded him by Limerick's Gavin O'Mahony, when introduced in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, as simply a case of "he gave me a shoulder and I gave him one back. But no, that's it. And I've never experienced it (in hurling) - a lad misses a free and he says something like 'you missed a free' but that's basically it."
He added: "It seems to be something that's crept into the game of football. You would hope that it just doesn't creep into the game of hurling. And I don't imagine it will.
"A big thing for me with the football (is that) because there's runners going left, right and centre, they're banging each other and blocking a run, and next thing the lads fall on the ground, they get up and they say something to each other.
"With hurling we don't have that because the ball is gone 50 or 60 yards and that's it, the play is over that side. So I'd imagine that's probably helping the game of hurling; that there's not that same level of physical contact."
Earlier this week, Cavanagh spoke out against the sledgers who delve "deeper into family history, girlfriends and wives", the clear inference being that this is all part of a pre-meditated tactic. Shefflin reiterated that he has "never" heard such abuse.
"That's why, when it was said to me last year that this was being said, I went: 'Ah no, that's not true' ... that's my own personal experience from playing the game for 16 years."
But what about the assertion that football sledgers are researching an opponent's family history?
"It's only when players are starting to come out now and actually say it, and I think you'll hear more of it creeping out now as well, different players saying it. I just find it absolutely crazy. I think there's no place in the game for it," Shefflin stressed.
"If it's going on in certain teams, management need to step up to the mark and say 'Look, lads, this is not going to happen on my shift'."
If Horgan were a football freetaker, he would doubtless qualify as a prime target. In hurling, though, he declared: "It doesn't happen. Never happened me anyway."
He echoed Shefflin's explanation as to why, saying: "It's probably harder in hurling because the ball can travel so far so quickly."