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Report shows hurling has a bright future on the cards

By John Campbell

The proposals contained in the Hurling 2020 Committee's report, which has just been released, have been broadly welcomed in Ulster.

Former Antrim and Ulster hurler Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton sat on the committee and has already made it clear that the long hours spent in conclave on a range of issues could lead to the sport taking a big leap forward.

The appointment of a Director of Hurling, answerable only to the GAA's Director General Paraic Duffy, only one defender permitted to take up position on the goal line when a penalty is being taken, the substitution of a player who has received two yellow cards, the introduction of a new five-second advantage rule - are just some of the proposals that have already found favour within the province.

The proposal that a blueprint for the development of the game in all counties, but especially in the perceived weaker ones has struck a particular chord in the province as has the recommendation that there should be a separate referees' body for hurling.

Former Antrim and Ulster hurler McNaughton was a member of the 2020 committee and he believes that the proposals, if implemented, will bring a whole new dimension to the sport.

"I'm very happy with the report. There are some things that mean more to me. The Director of Hurling is the biggest thing that I wanted to see done and we worked hard on the job description," reveals McNaughton.

"This guy will hopefully go into a county and look at their structures and say 'if you want funding you do A, B and C, if you don't you're not getting it.

"The one element that will get the biggest profile is the two yellow cards and you can be replaced.

"Obviously if somebody goes out and clips somebody across the head they're going to get sent off, but for the clumsy tackle or where somebody gets booked early and then trips somebody, and it's not malicious, to make the whole team suffer for it is not right."

And McNaughton welcomes the 'one v one' recommendation in relation to the taking of a penalty.

"We tested this out and it's really a matter of health and safety. Players must stay outside the 20-metre line when making contact with the ball with only the goalkeeper to beat," he said.

The fact that the report offers fresh hope for the nurturing of the game in Ulster is particularly pleasing to McNaughton but he is adamant that Antrim must continue to aspire to success at a higher level.

"I would like to see Antrim in the top tier in maybe the next five or 10 years," insists McNaughton.

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