Which young hurling star is thinking of walking away from the game at just 23?
One of the country’s best young hurlers, Laois’ Willie Hyland, is thinking of quitting the game because of how it is run in his home county.
Limerick’s demolition of Antrim, after doing the same job to Laois the week before, was yet another sign that hurling is in serious trouble away from the very big names. And this morning’s Sunday Independent gives us further proof of that with the news that Laois star Willie Hyland is thinking of walking away from the game at just 23.
Hyland is the current top scorer in the 2012 hurling Championship, with 1-26 to his name. The Clough-Ballacolla man scored 1-10 of his side’s 1-11 against Limerick and he was named the Hurler of the Month for May. But the endless defeats and poor structures he experiences are driving him from the game.
"The players have been lambasted for years but no Laois hurler ever stood up and said what's going on,” says Hyland. “I'm not here to talk about myself - this is about Laois hurling and the depression we feel, the whole scene is beating us down.
“I have unreal time for Teddy (McCarthy, Laois manager) as a person. This is not his fault, he's just the latest man in there, but I won't be there in October unless the whole scene is changed. I actually feel sorry for Teddy being in this job after what he's achieved in the game. He has achieved more than anyone in Laois but we're going out getting hidings with no real plan."
It is that talk of ‘October’ and not being around that should be worrying every hurling fan today. Hyland is one of the best in the country, in any county. If the game can’t find a way to keep him interested and playing, it’s in real trouble.
"That Limerick defeat was the final straw but I haven't enjoyed hurling with Laois for the past two years,” he adds. “All those beatings we've shipped are bloody embarrassing. We've spiralled downwards since Niall Rigney stepped down and nothing's been done about it. Niall had every player in the county togged out and we were going somewhere - we pushed Limerick to three points in the 2009 qualifiers. In hindsight, we didn't appreciate him half enough.
"Players like Cahir Healy, Zane Keenan, Eoin Browne, Joe Phelan, Shane Dollard and Shane Phelan are missing, as are other club hurlers good enough for Laois who won't bother because they see no hope."
Fitness levels, commitment from players to do more and the absence of some club players from the inter-county set-up are all cited by Hyland as reasons why Laois is struggling. Hyland goes on to have a bit of a cut at the County Board and demand a high-profile ‘modern’ manager is brought in.
With an O’Moore man, Liam O’Neill, now head of the GAA, maybe something will be done to keep the game alive in places like Laois and prevent players like Hyland from drifting away. It’s long overdue.