herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Small ball better? Don't make me hurl up!

TEN reasons why this column would rather big ball to small ball, any day of the week, even of a Saturday when nothing else is on ...

1 Hurling is injurious to your health, even for non-participants. Far too many heart-stopping palpitations for anyone approaching middle age, and enough ridiculous sub-plots to fill an entire 25th anniversary week on Fair City.

2 Far too much happens. How is a humble hack meant to keep pace with an All-Ireland final that produces 54 scores in 70 minutes (a white or green flag every 78 seconds) while still keeping tabs on those quick puckouts, all the while under constant peril that you will run out of ink and/or lose your marbles?

3 By welcome contrast, you can watch a football final while slurping tea, eating a gourmet Croker sambo, filing tweets, even filing nails, checking the BBC website to see if Leicester have scored a fifth against United ... and still easily keep pace with a more pedestrian 23 scores in 70 minutes (one every 3mins 2.5 secs).

4 Point 2 proves that hurling is too darned easy. If Richie Hogan can score points for fun when he's meant to be a midfielder, and if John O'Dwyer can sling over effortless scores from the touchline, in his first final, you have to ask (a) is the sliotar too light, (b) are the posts too far apart or (c) would they do it with a size-five O'Neill?

5 How can a sport that incorporates so many scores defy the laws of mathematical probability by finishing in All-Ireland stalemate? Every single year! How can a player from Kilkenny or Tipp devise his end-of-season revelries when he could be hauled back to the Big Smoke at the fag end of September, at the very moment that he planned to be dipping into a Gran Canarian pool or a creamy Westport pint?

6 Football pays due respect to a player's surname. Our star men answer to the name 'O'Donoghue' or 'Murphy' or 'Macauley' ... and yes, we have the odd exception like 'Gooch' but that's only for the truly exceptional. Whereas hurling? Well, leaving aside hurling's Goochian equivalent - King Henry - there's a dizzy multitude of monikers, from Bubbles to Wally to Podge (oops, he's just joined the big ball club). It was ever thus: Sambo, Sparrow, Hopper, Fingers, Babs. Speaking of which, thank heaven for Babs: at least he can still recognise an All-Ireland dud.

7 Football has given us the perfect antidote to cynical foul play, the Black Card, whose mere threat (it doesn't actually exist) is enough to dispel any negative tactics and will enable gifted forwards to flourish in free-scoring shootouts such as ... Kerry 2-9 Donegal 0-12 last Sunday. Whereas Hurling Man believes either (a) tripping your man as he bears down on goal is pragmatism, not cynicism or (b) the referee is overdue a trip to Specsavers, as your man clearly fell over his own hurl.

8 Football doesn't claim to be the greatest sport in the world, even if four countries (the Republic, Northern Ireland, England and the USA) have teams competing in the 'All-Ireland' race. But hurling acolytes have no problem bigging themselves up as the best field game not just anywhere on the globe, but in the galaxy - even though three counties have shared 90 of the 126 All-Irelands (over 71pc) ever won.

9 Any sport where you can make the Team of the Year on the strength of playing two matches (DJ Carey's ninth All Star in 2002) must have a serious chat with itself. This would never happen in big ball ... and I won't listen to any of your raiméis, either, about super-sub Peter Canavan in 2005 or maybe 'The Star' (oops, delete nickname) this year.

10 No one talks about the first Sunday in September, it's always the third Sunday; in football, the winner changes ever year ... most important of all, Sam Maguire is a bigger cup.

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