Hurling & Camogie

Media bans never achieved anything: former Down hurling ace Noel Sands

Portaferry's Noel Sands gives his views on the current Down hurling team
Portaferry's Noel Sands gives his views on the current Down hurling team

NOEL Sands says media bans never achieved anything and doesn’t understand why the lower rungs of hurling aren’t doing more to promote themselves and the small-ball game.

The former Down hurling ace believes the GAA at a central level and teams and players themselves should be taking centre stage rather than shying away from it.

Over the past number of weeks, the Gaelic Players Association [GPA] has instigated media bans at different stages in a bid to highlight the on-going issue over a financial gap in mileage expenses for inter-county players in different counties.

The GAA and the players’ union body are at odds over which charter is applicable in relation to player expenses.

The Association insists their contribution towards player mileage expenses will cover four collective training sessions per week but anything above that the individual counties will have to foot the bill.

The GPA has argued some of its members are out of pocket as a result and have responded by not talking to broadcast media and sometimes all media.

“I’ve never been in favour of media bans. I don’t know what they prove,” said Sands.

“I was always open and honest. A manager was never going to stop me from talking if I wanted to. It’s just the wrong approach.”

Sands, whose two sons Eoghan and Daithi are currently starring for the Down hurlers, added: “There needs to be better communication between managers and county boards because the manager calls the shots anyway and they should sit down and talk about what they want. It’s a common-sense approach. Thrash it out, find out what the county board can pay for and what they can’t pay for.”

Sands, who won three Ulster senior titles with the Ardsmen during the 1990s, believes Ulster hurling is in good health and feels the various counties enjoying an upward curve need to promote themselves better to generate interest and therefore greater participation.

“When your senior team is doing well, build on it, get a profile for it,” he said. “Get your underage structures going. It needs publicity, it needs profile.

“Division Two hurling doesn’t get any profile whatsoever on TV – but it still needs advertising and publicity for the players. I remember listening to Liam Griffin when he told the story of Wexford hurling was going nowhere and nobody was writing about it.

“He walked into the newspaper offices in Wexford and told them: ‘If Wexford hurling is going to go anywhere, you need to give it more profile.’

“He grabbed it by the balls. Just to listen to that and how he inspired Wexford hurling...”

Sands was one of the county’s leading lights for over a decade and enjoyed many seasons in top flight hurling. There have been a few peaks and more troughs since his retirement in 2002 – but he feels more optimistic than ever about the state of Down hurling.

Last week, they were 70 minutes away from a place in Division One before Westmeath brought them down to earth with a bang in their promotion face-off in Thurles.

But Sands is full of praise for the work of county manager Ronan Sheehan.

"Ronan has done a really good job with the squad. He’s had 'Sully' [Diarmuid O'Sullivan of Cork] involved and Ryan O’Dwyer [former Dublin hurler] and they’d just call players out. Ronan’s delegated really well - it’s really good management. Hopefully they can get a good run in the Joe McDonagh this year, but they're definitely going in the right direction."