Hurling is the most popular sport in West Waterford. It is the fastest field game in the world and is Irelands national game.Its origins go back to Pre-Christian times.In 1367 it was banned by the English under the Statutes of Kilkenny.A second attempt was made under the Statutes of Galway in 1527.All efforts to wipe out the ancient game failed.Hurling was played on the streets of Ballybricken in Waterford city in the 1700s.Around this time-in Newfoundland-settlers from Waterford and Tipperary played hurling against settlers from Wexford and Kilkenny. With the establishment of the G.A.A.in 1884 hurling and Gaelic football were put on an organised basis.Hurling is generally played in the more fertile parts of Ireland.
In the period 1884-1920 hurling was very weak in West Waterford.Gaelic football predominated. In the 1920s and 30s hurling gradually supplanted Gaelic football in areas such as Tallow ,Lismore,Ballyduff and Cappoquin. In 1919 hurling was introduced to Tallow. Mick Curley and Pa Sheehan were part of the Waterford 1929 Minor hurling team that won the All-Ireland.In 1931 there were nine Tallow players on the panel which won the Junior Hurling All-Ireland. In 1925 Lismore won the Waterford Senior Hurling Championship.
Interesting to see that in 2007 five Waterford hurlers were chosen on the All Stars Team.Three of these came from West Waterford: Dan Shanahan (Lismore) who was also chosen as hurler of the year, Stephen Molumphy (Ballyduff Upper) and Michael 'Brick' Walsh (Stradbally). Tony Browne (Mt. Sion) and Ken McGrath (Mt. Sion) were the other two.Ballyduff also captured the Waterford Senior Hurling title in 2007. They defeated Ballygunner in the County Final. In 2009 Michael 'Brick' Walsh (Stradbally) also won an All Star.
Waterford won the Munster Minor title in 2009. The West was well represented on the team with: L Egan (Dungarvan), D Fives (Tourin), K Moore (Dungarvan), F Murray (Cappoquin), B O’Halloran (Clashmore) and P Prendergast (Lismore). Waterford has won one National Hurling League title and four Munster Senior Hurling titles in this decade. The Munster titles were won in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2010. In each of these teams West Waterford has had strong representation.
The following YouTube video shows Waterford hurlers in action against Cork. Dan Shanahan features strongly in this.
There are several reasons for the development of the ancient game in this area:
(1) Christian Brothers schools in Lismore and Dungarvan strongly promoted the game.This had a ripple effect on surrounding areas.
(2) Rivalry between West Waterford and East Cork gave an impetus to the game.
(3) Inter-county success for Waterford added further momentum.Waterford won Minor Hurling All Irelands in 1929 and 1948.The Cappoquin club provided 6 members of the 1948 minor team.Further success was achieved at Junior Hurling level.In 1938 Waterford won the Munster Senior Hurling Championship for the first time.In 1948 Waterford won its first Senior Hurling All Ireland defeating Dublin.The period 1957-1963 was the golden era of Waterford at inter-county level.Waterford won the Senior Hurling All Ireland in 1959 but lost the 1957 and 1963 finals.In 1963 a National Hurling League title was won.The 1957-1963 team was famous for its ground hurling and combined play.Skills were executed at breath-taking pace.By now a strong hurling tradition had been forged.This helped to sustain the game during the lean spell from 1963-1992.
In 1974 Waterford reached the U-21 All Ireland final. Success was achieved in the 1992 All Ireland U-21 final against Offaly.Waterford also reached the Minor All Ireland final in 1992.In 1994 the county won the Munster u-21 championship. In 2002 and 2004 Waterford won the Munster Senior Hurling Championship.
(4) Street leagues-in towns such as Lismore,Dungarvan and Cappoquin-strengthened the hurling base.
(5) National teachers such as Pat O Neill and Michael Feeney (Ballyduff) Michael Culloo and Bro. Blake(Lismore C.B.S) amongst others provided expert coaching and organisational muscle in the 1950s and 60s. By now hurling was firmly entrenched.The work of primary and secondary teachers continues down to the present day.The coaching skills and enthusiasm of Peter Power (now retired)inspired many national school students.The establishment of Bord na nOg has been a great success.Summer hurling camps-for juveniles-help to sustain the momentum.
(6) Co.Senior hurling championships have been won by Dungarvan,Tourin,Lismore,Tallow and Ballyduff.Abbeyside also produced a fine Senior hurling team in the 1960s.The arrival of Abbeyside,Ardmore,Stradbally and Fourmilewater-on the Senior hurling scene-has greatly increased interest.
(7) Rivalry between neighbouring clubs such as Cappoquin,Tallow, Ballyduff and Lismore has served to promote the game.
(8) Intermediate and Junior hurling championships are also well organised.
(1) Ground stroke on left-hand and on right-hand sides.
(2) Striking out of hand from both right-hand side and left-hand sides.Move to strike from right-hand side turn sharply and strike from left-hand side(vice versa).
(3) Solo run:gradually increase pace.
(4) Hooking and blocking.
(5) Striking in the air.
(6) Holding the hurley short.Opponent experiences difficulty in hooking.
(7) Crisp striking-wristy swing no wild swipes.
(8) Picking the ball at speed.
(10) 7-aside games in training:ideal for skill development.Use part of game for ground hurling only.Use the rest of the game to lift the ball at speed and strike without taking in hand.Practice shooting for points from all angles at speed from 30/50 yards out.Development of combination play.Emphasis on mobility-player running into position to take a pass.Allow no bunching.Train players when taking frees-from awkward positions-to pass to better placed colleagues.
(11) On occasions practice the drop shot,batting the ball,scuab pass,scuab shot,side steps and dummies.
(12) Teach players to protect hands in the air.
(13) Insist on catching the ball with fingers not the palm of the hand.
(14) No training without hurley in hand.
(15) Use ball-alleys and walls for coaching.Ball returns at speed sharpening reflexes and honing various skills.
(16) Side-line cuts:Use heel of hurley to properly raise the ball.
(17) Forward races in towards the ball picks it at speed and shoots for a score using either side.
(18) Forward races in towards the ball and strikes on the ground using either side.
(19) Forward runs out to meet the ball picks it at speed and turns sharply shooting from either side.
(20) Forward races out to meet the ball and strikes it on the ground towards the goal using either side.
(21) Hand-pass and dummy hand-pass
(1) Place pucks-out to team-mates.Vary direction of pucks-out.
(2) Keep eye on ball at all times. No speaking to umpires.
(3) Do not attempt to stop balls going over the bar or going wide.
(4) Clear ball to wings.No batting down.
(5) Body must be behind the ball when blocking.
(6) Never pull first time on the ball. Catch whenever possible.
(7) Move to the sides to clear.Never cross the goal.
(8) Catch the ball with the fingers and not the palm of the hand.
(1) Clear balls out to the wings not across the goal.
(2) Get to the ball first.
(3) Narrow angle.Force the forward to shoot from a more difficult position.
(4) Backs should stay behind forwards under dropping balls.Otherwise stay side by side.
(5) To avoid being rounded or sidestepped wait.Do not lunge into a tackle.
(6) Avoid too much ball watching.Otherwise forward will slip into a scoring position. Tight marking is essential.Backs must aim to keep opponents scoreless.The golden rule of full back play is:Pick up loose forwards.
(1) Half back line must not alone defend but set up attacks also.In training it is absolutely essential that they run at full speed to the ball coming against them and learn to deliver long clearances at speed.Train the half-backs to get in under the dropping ball and bat it back again.This is very important when dealing with pucks-out.They need to master the skills required to deal with pucks-out from their own goalkeeper especially when playing against the wind
(2) Tight marking is essential.Half-backs must aim to keep their opponents scoreless.
(3) It is essential that players vary clearances. Sometimes pick and clear.On other occasions strike the ball on the ground.Clear balls to the wings to open up opposing backlines.Forwards like the low ball.
(4)The centre-back often lies behind the wing-backs to pick up possession
(1) Must be comfortable under the dropping ball.The short overhead swing is very important here.As one midfielder goes in under the dropping ball the other must watch the break.
(2)The ball must be delivered at speed to the forwards.Vary delivery:Often drive the ball in low. Sometimes straight through but often to the wings.Balls struck to the wings spread defences and help prevent bunching.It is important to remember that high balls tend to favour the backline. In the diagram above arrows indicate movement of the ball diagonally from mid-fielders to corner-forwards.This spreads the defence.Corner forwards may choose to either cross the ball horizontally or diagonally to the incoming centre-forward.Creating space for forwards is essential in the modern game.
(3) Centre-field players drop back to help the defence or move forward to help the attack as required.
(1) Should move the ball quickly into open spaces.This reduces bunching and and puts greater pressure on the backs.
(2) Half forwards must vary tactics sometimes delivering ground ball to the full forward line and on other occasions picking the ball and shooting for scores.
(3) Alert half forwards move to the ball. They do not wait for it to come to them.
(4) Good over head striking is essential.Half-Forwards must at all times endeavour to win the puck-out from their own goalkeeper.Otherwise half backs will cut off ball supply from the opposing full forward line and launch counter attacks.
(5) Players in the half forward line must be prepared to run off the ball and take a pass from a team-mate.This generates scores and unsettles the defence.
(1) The full forward must vary his play: Pull on one ball,lift another,redistribute the ball to a better placed team-mate.He must continuously move away from the full back.
(2) Corner forwards may cross ground balls horizontally to the full forward or may send diagonal passes to the centre forward.On other occasions they may pick the ball and then redistribute to a better placed colleague.Sometimes they will take on the defender and round him before shooting for a score.They have a better chance of scoring when running towards a ball which is crossed from from the far side rather than having to turn and run after the ball-"Outside coming in rather than being inside coming out".In general goalkeepers fear the ground ball.Too much picking of the ball in the vicinity of the goal-mouth slows down play and favours the backs.
(3) Inside forwards should stop balls going wide.
(4) Constant movement will upset the backs.The full forward line should not drift too far outfield.This reduces number of scores.
(5) Leaving just two players in the full forward line is often beneficial and creates space.
*Photograph of Lismore hurling team adapted from an original.Original-Kiely Photography Kilmacthomas Co.Waterford.