*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
AHEAD of Clare’s opening outing in the Allianz National Hurling League, Eoin Brennan heads into his time machine to look at what has disappeared from the tournament.
Clare last won the Allianz National Hurling League in 2016, having previously claimed the title in 1963, 1977 and 1978. The NHL was founded in 1925, almost 100 years on what has vanished from the league.
1. Crepe Paper Hats:
Probably the most ill-advised match accessory in the GAA’s history as while the colours were bright, the material itself namely paper may have been ideal for a National League Final in Thailand but certainly not equipped for the frequent bouts of rain in Thurles as along with the hat disintegrating, the colour dye ran down supporters faces.
2. A.N. Other:
A programme staple as managers pondered over invariably a late corner-forward replacement or a Shane O’Donnell-like bolter akin to 2013.
3. Christmas Break:
The National Hurling League used to start in the autumn and finish the following summer. For example, only five weeks after their breakthrough All-Ireland Senior title in 1995, the Clare hurlers traveled to Austin Stack Park in Tralee to face Kerry, with the final not taking place for a further seven months.
4. Knee bandages:
All the rage in the 70’s, 80’s and in a more modern multicoloured guise in the 90’s, the Millennium Bug seemed to turn the necessity of a knee bandage into a cruciate epidemic.
5. Packed dressing rooms:
Everyone from reporters to supporters could be seen mixing with players before and after matches, often over a cigarette. Sometimes there wasn’t even room for players.
While media training has been hugely beneficial for players over the past decade, constant references to the ‘process’, ‘taking it game-by-game’ and ‘not looking beyond next Sunday’ don’t exactly instill passion in supporters like frank and open interviews used to.
7. Micro Glove:
A step further than the distinctive Micro helmet was the Micro Glove that was designed to protect a forward’s catching hand from a no-nonsense defender’s robust aerial challenges. The only flaw was that they were so rare that it would actually alert defenders of who the chief marksman or targetman was in a team which ironically led to increased attention and invariably a rigorous test of how durable the glove actually was.
8. Pulling on the ground:
John Fenton’s famous wonder goal from 1987 will never be repeated, not just because the Midleton maestro struck instinctively from 35 metres to the far top corner of Limerick’s net but simply due to the fact that if a player tried that now, they would be substituted almost immediately. Possession is now nine/tenths of the law so pulling on the ball or even the famous clash of the ash are practically extinct.
9. Skinny Tracksuit Pants:
In the 70’s and 80’s, it used to be those shiny tight shorts but about a decade ago, the trend of skinny tracksuit pants became a prerequisite which was fine for inter-county players but certainly wasn’t suited to a lot of managers, social club players and physios. You could actually count the change in their pockets such was the level of stress the stitching was under so it’s best to remember that skinny pants cannot make you skinny.
10. Hurley breaks:
When’s the last time you saw a hurley broken in a match? It’s rare at club level but almost ‘once in a blue moon’ at inter-county which in itself is a myth as it turns out that blue moons occur every two to three years. Granted, the advancement of hurley making and price to boot has rather nullified the shattering of ash but there’s no doubt that it was a spectacular part of the game.