‘I think it’s happening too much’ – Waterford legend Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh calls out players for feigning injury
Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh is picking his words carefully. Sitting in Croke Park, the former Waterford star has a point to make about at least one aspect of the direction hurling is going in.
He doesn’t use the word ‘diving’ or ‘simulation’ but it’s clear he feels some players are making too much of injuries. Player welfare is, he stresses, paramount, but he wonders aloud whether some of the interventions from medical staff are really necessary.
“I was thinking about that on the way up,” he said at the EirGrid Timing Sponsorship Launch.
“Do you know the Cúl Heroes cards? I think they should bring out one of those for the physios at the moment because they are seen so much on the field at the moment and the physios are gazing into a lot of players’ eyes at the moment.
"Now, it’s all about player welfare and all that and I’m not …. but sometimes there’s a lot of times players are going down and helmets are removed and would it be fair to say the physios are getting a lot of game-time at the moment? I nearly know more of the physios than the players with the helmets off.
“I think it’s an issue in terms of players going down, I think it’s happening too much, players on the ground and they are able to get back up again. Again, I’m not saying … it’s very important to phrase that and make sure it’s right but I would always remember the one thing, Limerick went up in my estimation massively when Séamus Flanagan got a belt against Clare in the back of the head last year and didn’t even look behind him.
“I have a lot of time for that, and the same for Tommy Walsh when he got the belt off Benny Dunne (in 2009) – he spent about five seconds on the ground and then sprinted for the line to get his blood sorted out.
“I’m definitely not condoning it, but I think it’s being highlighted too much in terms of head injury and players probably have an aspect to cover that as well, because I don’t want to see GAA being stop-start, when in a minute or two they seem to be up and about.”
Walsh spent 17 seasons hurling with Waterford, making a record 76 championship appearances and winning three Munster titles and four All-Stars but the mood in the county is dark these days. Long gone is the giddiness that greeted the manner in which the Déise claimed last year’s league title
“Look, it’s disappointing – there’s no point in saying otherwise. The players will be disappointed and look, you want to be in that mix and want to be competing with the four teams that played on Sunday. It’s very disappointing from a Waterford perspective.”
Some former Waterford players, including Ken McGrath, have been critical of the Déise under Davy Fitzgerald but it’s not a view shared by Walsh.
“Look, you can’t labour on coaches and things like that. It takes time to bed in as well like, and Waterford came off a disappointing end to the championship last year and you are going into it this year, and it was pretty mixed from a Waterford perspective.
“They lost games in the league, they lost players and they got injuries as well. Unfortunately Tadhg de Búrca is a central part of the Waterford team and it happened to us as well in 2018 or whenever it was when Tadhg got injured and he’s a big part of it. (Waterford) need their best players on the field, they can’t lose fellas with injuries and that has been a problem for them.”
And pointing to the squad’s age profile, Walsh believes the current squad can recover and back them to deliver a response in their final game against Tipperary.
“The core group are still there, the older fellas are still 27, 28 or 29 so you aren't in the 30’s or anything like that yet, so you are going to get another few years of those players. 6ou do have good exciting players coming through as well, Waterford may not have had the underage success but they still are good players so hopefully they’ll be brought into that and brought up to speed.
"It’s not that long ago since last year when Waterford were looking like a very strong outfit. Those players haven’t changed and you still have all those players still playing. Look, hopefully they’ll come back and go again, and the Tipp game obviously has no great meaning to it, but you’d be hoping they’ll come out and go at it as best they can.”