We recently caught up with the GAA’s first-ever National Hurling Development manager Martin Fogarty on KCLR, a man who was also a selector for Kilkenny from 2005-2013, a period in which the Cats claimed six All-Ireland titles.
Over the years, the term “modern hurling” has dominated much of the discourse regarding our national sport, with the likes of handpassing and shorter puck-outs contributing to a more possession-based game. Generally, this seems to have led to the average scores in games increasing in 2021 to 59 scores, with 73% of all scores coming from open play, whereas in 1994 for example it was 27 points average per game. Another possible contributing factor many have stated is the weight of the sliotar itself and the rims. The mass of the sliotar is between 110 and 116 grams with the rims height between 1.8mm and 2.6mm and width between 3.6 mm and 5.4mm.
While many cries of “The Game is Gone” comes from folks complaining about the weight of the sliotar itself, it isn’t necessarily a sentiment Kilkenny legend Henry Shefflin shares, although he did admit the game has become more predictable. Speaking to the Allianz’ League Legends Show a couple of years ago, the Shamrocks man stated, “A free-taker coming back 100, 110 yards to strike a ball over the bar…It’s probably taking that entertainment value out of it.”
According to two-time All Ireland winner with Galway, Pete Finnerty, the by-product of this “modern” game, has also contributed to a less physical style, with less focus on mark marking. A fact the current Galway manager Shefflin does seem to agree with when speaking in that same referenced interview with the League Legend Show, proclaiming, “That physical contact of the one-to-one battles is gone out of it a little bit.”
Of course with this trend and discussion happening in hurling circles, it was only fair to get the opinion of the GAA’s first-ever National Hurling Development Manager, Martin Fogarty, who does not believe the problem is as bad as some may believe.
“This term modern hurling wrecks my head, hurling is hurling. Nothing has changed only the weight of the ball. The weight of the ball means it is going faster and quicker and the guy can score from further out the field. Other than that it is 15 on 15.”
“You talk about the sweeper craic. Cork and Kilkenny were playing years ago, it was the second half in gale force wind. Frank Cummins dropped back behind there halfbacks and was playing midfield, he held the game for Kilkenny. That was before you were born,” referring to Scoreline.ie reporter Robbie Dowling while adding, “These kind of things have always been happening.”
“OK, goalies nowadays are getting a bit more involved. Noel Skehan would never dream of picking a short ball out to Fan Larkin or Jim Treacy. That has come into the game. People talk about the short game, but hurling will never change, it is about getting the balance right. They talk about Kilkenny adapting and to me, that is a load of hogwash. Back when I was involved, the lads were as good at playing the short game as they were playing the long one. Sometimes you have to play short, if you have the ball and somebody is up in your face, you would have to go short, if there was someone there to take it.”
“Make no mistake when you are coming out of defence, every time you pass the ball, you run the risk of it being turned over. If it is turned over at the intercounty level nowadays, you are lucky if it is a point. Where if you deliver the ball up the field, the worst thing that could happen is it comes back down.”
“The funny thing about it is, Limerick hit a short ball if they are not able to hit a long ball or if there is no one free. As soon as they get a chance, if they see a forward loose or even a bit of grass to one side of him, they will have it gone up to them in a blink of an eye.”
You can hear the full interview with Martin Fogarty. The former Official Kilkenny GAA selector and Erin’s Own Gaa Club man looked ahead to the Leinster final and reflects on his time as the GAA’s first-ever National Hurling Development manager.