Kelly struggles with his headgear during a pre-match training session.

Kelly struggles with his headgear during a pre-match training session.

Eoin Kelly is only calling it as he sees it when he says hurlers are being ‘treated like kids’ in being forced to wear helmets and full faceguards from January 1st.


“Next year, it’ll be ‘Get your mammy to put on your helmet for you before you go out and play’, or something stupid like you can’t wear studded boots,” the Passage star complained from the All Stars tour in Argentina.

Arguing that “the GAA should really look at fellows over 25 who have not worn a helmet for 10 or 15 years”, he added: “I don’t know if it is driven by insurance companies or what, but it is going to be wicked hard on Dan Shanahan, Ken McGrath and fellas like that – they have not worn a helmet in 20 years.

“I have not worn once since I was 11 or 12. As John Mullane said, it’s grand putting it on in the winter, but when you’re going out on a sunny day… It’s like being stuck in a small room. It’s very claustrophobic.”

Apart from the discomfort and the danger that players could actually do themselves damage through not being able to see properly (a point recently made by Paul Flynn) I reckon the GAA are making a massive mistake by obliging all hurlers to cover up. Surely grown men should have a choice. You don’t see rugby players obliged to wear skullcaps and goggles despite all the gouging and raking that goes on.

Some people suspect that the real reason for the GAA’s hardline stance is to curtail expensive dental claims rather than eye and facial injuries. But my main concern is that this move will cost hurling priceless exposure in an ever-more-competitive sporting environment. Players won’t be recognised, and the game’s profile and popularity will suffer. Kelly with a helmet on could be anyone. Have a look at the photo. And who’d be 100 percent sure of namesake’s identity in the picture on the front page of this section only for the caption?

Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face.