Why Keep This Great Game Such A Big Secret?

Posted: February 8, 2007 in sports

This article was mentioned in the Munster Express recently, it was written by Kenneth Wolstenholme who spoke the words “some people are on the pitch, they think its all over, it is now” at the end of the 1966 World Cup Final.


Sunday Press 13th. September, 1959.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Irish, but ever since last Sunday I’ve been annoyed by them.
Annoyed with them for keeping this great game of hurling to themselves for so long.
Here is something as Irish as gaelic coffee. Yet you Irish have been shy and bashful about singing its praises to the rest of the World. I wonder why?

I’m still raving to my friends about Sunday’s final between Kilkenny and Waterford and since that excerpt which was shown in Sportsview on B.B.C. television on Wednesday , I’ve had to explain what hurling is more times than Paddy O’Keefe-who was so helpful to us in giving us facilities-has had to explain to disappointed fans why all the tickets are sold for a final.

Yet remember I am a self confessed soccer maniac. I still think soccer is the finest game in the World but now hurling is pretty strong around second place.

Like everyone who has ever seen the game I had a wrong impression of hurling. I thought it was just another excuse for a “fight”. Many think the same. I have spend hours since Sunday explaining to people in England that there are rules and that the onfield discipline is strict and the game is anything but a brawl.

My main lasting impression will always be of the excitement I felt at Croke Park. I’ve seen sporting events in many parts of Europe and America (both North & South) but I have yet to see a game which keeps the excitement at such a constant fever pitch as hurling.

Every other game I’ve seen has its dull moments yet on Sunday there was none at all and I came away wondering how 30 amateurs to whom the rule book says “full time training is inconsistent with amateurism” could keep it up so long.

It is now generally accepted that to get to the top and stay there in any World-class sport you have got to train full time, but your players of the fastest and most exciting game of the lot shattered that belief for me in one unforgettable hour last Sunday.

When we filmed the final only one of the B.B.C. crew had ever seen a hurling game and our main difficulty was keeping up with the tremendous movement. It didn’t take me long to realise that hurling is even faster than ice-hockey which has always been regarded as the fastest of all sports.

Happily enough hurling seems to sacrifice nothing of its skill on the alter of speed. I shall never forget some of the incredible forwards I and 74,000 others saw on Sunday and one man stands in my memory Tom Cheasty. That time in the second-half when he caught the ball swerved around an opponent, tipped the ball onto his hurley, started to run, dropped the ball, but regained it, then burst between two men and shot a point which will forever remain as one of my finest sporting memories.

As far as television is concerned the danger about hurling is it could be too fast for the camera to follow. I think Sunday proved that the danger can be overcome. Our cameraman followed it very well for a man that had never seen the game before, and in a live outside broadcast there would be three television cameras instead of one film camera, so the coverage would be easier.

So there is no reason why-the G.A.A. permitting-hurling should not be one of the big attractions on your screens when Irish television starts. Eamonn Andrews is a great personal and professional friend of mine, and I have left him in no doubt as to what I think of hurling as television entertainment-although let us always remember that at best television is only a substitute for actually being in the stadium yourself.

Whether the B.B.C. will cover hurling again I frankly don’t know. It is not my job to decide which events are covered but I do know that in any case I am coming to Dublin for the football final just to see whether football can provide the thrills and excitement hurling did. And if I get half a chance I shall be at Croke Park again for the Kilkenny-Waterford replay.

In the last two years Wembley Stadium in London has staged a Gaelic day at Whit suntide with both Hurling & Gaelic football. They can already put me down as a subscriber for 1960, and I am convinced that if two of the top Irish teams gave an exhibition match to the English people hurling would be as popular on my side of the Channel as it is on yours.

For make no mistake about it Hurling is a great game-and when you bring it to England don’t forget to bring along the architect of the new stand at Croke Park as well. I’d love to see him get to work on some of our prehistoric football grounds.

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