Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy: ‘I’d prefer to go back to a white sliotar’

Decorated goalkeeper voices scepticism about changing hurling in response to trends

  Eoin Murphy: ‘Are you going to punish Limerick simply because they’re so far ahead of the pack at this stage?’ Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Eoin Murphy: ‘Are you going to punish Limerick simply because they’re so far ahead of the pack at this stage?’ Photograph: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

 

Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy is the most decorated goalkeeper in modern hurling. Despite this, he has always played outfield for his club Glenmore and also for Waterford IT, with whom he won Fitzgibbon Cup honours.

He has therefore a varied experience of the game and engaged views on the composition of the sliotar, which is currently under consideration by the recently appointed advisory group on a digital sliotar, chaired by his county man Ned Quinn.

“If you’re playing now, no one uses the same sliotar, so I think it is a great idea. Something had to come in just to standardise, to have the same one across the sport,” says Murphy.

From his perspective, the rims on any prospective approved ball are particularly important.

“The rims would be a big thing from my point of view as well because when we start training, whenever we’re back, it’s going to be winter. It’s going to be freezing cold and the bigger the rim, the harder the sliotar is and you’re just breaking your good hurls and that pisses me off to be honest.

“As well, you’re catching a big rim in the freezing cold – you’re going around for six, eight weeks with bruising in the palm of your hand and across your knuckles from catching sliotars. That’s the only thing. Once the rim is shaved off down to a reasonable enough level, I don’t mind too much.”

He’s not enthusiastic about the yellow sliotar, feeling it is slightly hard to see and track.

“I know it’s a bit different in Croke Park because the standard of the lights are different to other county grounds, but once it goes into the lights, you’re not going to see it. Maybe the bit of the traditionalist in me [means] I prefer the white sliotar, to be honest.

“We were playing Cork this year [on] a really bright day, a lovely day. You’ve the sun shining on the grass so there is a sort of a yellow element or look to it and you have the ball pinging around.

“In my opinion, it is a small bit more difficult to see. I’d prefer to go back to white. I don’t see an issue with it but I can get where maybe spectators or people looking at it on telly – is it a bit easier to see [the yellow sliotar]? I didn’t think it was any easier to see on the television.”

Scoring tallies

There has been much discussion in recent times about the role of the sliotar in the steadily climbing scoring tallies in hurling. This year, All-Ireland champions Limerick had already scored enough by half-time to win the team’s final three years ago.

They racked up a record score for an All-Ireland final, 3-32, and threw in 19 wides for good measure – a scoring attempt every 1.3 minutes. If the ball is easier to hit, it is also easier to get to Limerick’s monumental half forwards.

Murphy is sceptical about re-engineering the game to react to trends, however strong.

“There are some games where you don’t have that free-scoring element to it, but are you just going to look back on the All-Ireland final when Limerick were phenomenal and say, ‘Oh, we need to bring in a new sliotar because they were too good, they were scoring too much’?

“We played Limerick in the qualifiers in John Kiely’s first year [2017] and you could see even that early in his tenure what they were trying to do on the puck-outs. They’re at the stage now where they’re perfecting that game.

“Are you going to punish Limerick simply because they’re so far ahead of the pack at this stage? Again, I don’t think that’s fair, to be very honest.”

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