After being informed about an article wrote by the legendary hurler Tommy Walsh, one had to totally agree hurling is on fire.
Walsh was convinced that we were going through a hurling boom and recent attendance figures would support this. Last Tuesday evening a crowd of 8,000 people attended the Munster minor semi-final replay of Tipp and Cork. Last night 6,000 people attended the Leinster U21 final while 60,000 attended the senior equivalent last Sunday in Croke Park, a record for a Leinster final. It is now rumoured that the Munster final will be close to a sell out this Sunday in Thurles.
So why have we seen a recent upturn in attendances which in the past has been a talking point about the lack of attendances at hurling games. The 2016 Leinster final managed a crowd of under 30,000 which was doubled this year. 26,508 was the attendance in last year’s senior Munster final where we saw Tipp destroy Waterford.
Perhaps the beating that Tipp and especially Kilkenny handed out over the last previous years in their respected provincial championships may have driven off the supporters of other counties. In the last decade, the hurling championship has been won by ether Kilkenny or Tipp aside from 2013 when Clare walked up the Hogan stand.
In 2017, Kilkenny have certainly come back to the pack and there is an unknown about where Tipp stand at the minute after disappointing performances against Cork and Westmeath. For the first time in years maybe even since the 90’s you can conceivably think that at least six teams can win the All-Ireland. The competition is breeding excitement back into the championship, competition which was lacking in the last few years.
It has been coming though. Underage hurling has been highly competitive especially at provincial level. Wexford won three Leinster’s in a row and up until last Wednesday evening, Kilkenny had not won the provincial crown at this level since 2012. Munster had a dominant Clare side but had great battles with Tipp and Limerick who themselves are producing some serious underage talent with many tipping them to win the All-Ireland at U21 level. We also have Waterford who have won a minor and U21 All-Ireland and the people in Waterford expect and hope that this team will complete the trifecta and win the senior All-Ireland.
Cork one of the traditional big three along with Kilkenny and Tipp have been struggling at all grades in recent years. However, they have seemingly stumbled upon some real gems in Sean Kingston, Luke Meade and Mark Coleman. The rebel faithfuls are back behind the team and while in past decades it might seem like the same old story of Cork lifting the Liam McCarthy but there something special about this Cork side. The flair and pace and the naivety of youth has made Cork a very enjoyable team to watch.
There are problems in hurling no doubt. The decline in sides like Offaly and Antrim for example is disappointing considering the great days they provided their own county and followers of hurling. Hopefully one day they will return but for now let’s just enjoy what we have as right now I believe it’s as good as its been in a long time.