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Comment: More must be done to satisfy Ulster's craving for quality hurling

By Declan Bogue

If there has ever been a time to be a hurling snob, this is it. On Saturday, it felt like the eyes of the world were on Croke Park and the drawn Galway v Clare game.

We know that simply cannot be possible, but it feels as if everybody I have spoken to since had their eyes out on stalks following the extra-time thriller.

In time, the claimed attendance for this game will rival that of the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall when the Sex Pistols turned up with their crummy guitars and bruised drum kit in June 1976.

The night was apparently the birth of not just punk music, but acid house and - holy moly - Simply Red, with Mick Hucknall, in attendance.

The hall could hold approximately 150 people, but some several thousand claim to have attended. In time, that will be said of Galway v Clare - 'I was there'.

Astonishingly, not even 24 hours later that wasn't even the game of the weekend as Cork and Limerick produced a clash that was less hurling match, more performance art.

If the chests on those involved in hurling couldn't have been any more puffed out, more was to follow with the unveiling of the first in the RTÉ series 'The Game', chronicling the beginnings and evolution of hurling.

As well as the usual talking heads, Ulster was represented by the most quotable man in hurling, Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton himself, who said that: "Playing county, team-mates will invite you to their wedding, but playing with your clubs are the boys that will carry you to your grave."

With this stirring rhetoric, backed up by all the famous faces waxing lyrical on their favourite sport, making it sound like a religious experience, it might do no harm to take stock of the sport as a whole.

As explained on the TV show, hurling originated through wealthy landowners keeping 'stables' of local hurlers to compete against rivals on the luscious ground of Munster and south Leinster. Northern hurling has always owed its origins to the traffic between the north Antrim area and Scotland, with Shinty a close cousin.

But 134 years on from having the rules codified, why is hurling still an exotic species among so many?

As keen as Ulster people are to extol their GAA credentials, it is worth pointing out that many in positions of power in clubs and county boards have strangled the hurling game.

There is an appetite for hurling in Ulster. All it requires is a little nurturing, and fewer roadblocks - particularly from those within.

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