"The important things that are staring us in the face are these cotton wool frees"
If things stay going the way they're going, then Jackie Tyrrell is worried for the game of hurling.
You watched Tipperary-Cork on Saturday night and somewhere in between the skilful short-passes and the speculative long-range shooting, you found yourself staring at the screen in disbelief. Well if that's a free, you'd say, then we might as well go off and play a game of tiddlywinks.
It's obvious and it's understandable that the rules have been tightened, as referees and rule-makers attempt to eradicate those dangerous head-high tackles from the game. But when Sean O'Leary Hayes brushed off Bubbles O'Dwyer and over in Galway, as William O'Donoghue's only crime was making contact with David Burke's shoulder, it had to have been clear to everyone that there was nothing dangerous about that.
With a staggering 48 frees awarded in Walsh Park, where Waterford defeated Westmeath, Jackie Tyrrell made the point that the flow has been stopped and the nitpicking has gone into over-drive. Making his point on The Sunday Game, it was hard to argue with what the Kilkenny man was saying.
"I would be deeply, deeply concerned for the game of hurling.
"The trends that have developed over the last two weekends. Looking over the games, the volume of frees, the stop-start nature...There were 48 frees in Waterford Westmeath, 36 in Galway-Limerick.
"We're seeing glorified free-taking competitions. Donal Burke with 0-15 frees, Evan Niland with 0-14 frees and Jason Forde in the double-digits. Are we going down the route of non-contact hurling? The physicality which attracts us to the game of hurling is being pushed further and further out of it. The free-flowing electricity that oozes through important games...it's not there."
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) May 16, 2021
"The GAA are looking at things like water breaks. I see water-breaks, there's not much water being drank at them.
"They're looking at all the wrong things. The important things that are staring us in the face are these cotton wool frees. Matthew O'Hanlon got sent off today for something that arguably wasn't even a free."
Limerick manager John Kiely was similarly critical of the free crack-down, which is hardly any surprise given that more than any other team in hurling right now, the Treaty seem to tackle on the edge of fouling. While they got away with pulls and drags last year, the thing has tightened this time around.