We live in a golden age of hurling. There are scores being scored and skills being displayed that couldn't have even been imagined thirty years ago.
But with that has advancement has come a heightened level of conformity. Players train the same, eat the same, dress the same.
Now, they even look the same on the field. Since helmets, complete with a faceguard, became compulsory at all levels in 2010, even more of the individuality has gone out of the game.
And we don't mean the loss of the helmet-less player.
Back in the day, when helmets were all too rare in hurling, there were a few who wore them with style. Legends of the game, remembered as much for what they wore on their head and what they did with a hurley and sliotar.
They weren't always the safest. They weren't always the nicest. In fact, they were generally ancient and manky. But they had character. They were iconic.
In that spirit, we present to you the 13 most iconic helmets in hurling history.
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 29, 2020
The three time All-Ireland winner with Galway, the captain of the great '87 and '88 teams Conor Hayes sported the first truly famous helmet in the game. His golden piece of art didn't make much sense. It seemed akin to a the leather helmets of mid century American Football, and was probably about as useful as them too.
When helmets were a rare thing on a hurling field, Hayes's gold number stood out like a sore thumb. Hayes's supreme hurling didn't hurt the iconic status of the headwear either.
Probably the most iconic of them all.
Joe Deane's yellow helmet was his constant companion throughout his stellar Cork career.
Always too big for him, and seemingly falling over his eyes, you wondered how he could even see out of it, nevermind make fools of corner backs up and down the country with it on his head.
Like most of the helmets on this list, protection wasn't the chief concern. Shorn of facemask, and even chin strap, the helmet just sat loosely on Joe's head for over a decade as he piled up great scores, All-Stars and All-Irelands.
Another famous yellow helmet, but with an accompanying famous chinstrap. George O'Connor and the helmet soldiered throughout the lean time for Wexford and hung on just long enough to eventually have their big day out in the sun when Wexford won the 1996 All-Ireland. A number of helmets are well remembered from the '96 Wexford team, but none are more iconic that the O'Connor's.
The great Brian Lohan's scruffy red helmet was the perfect choice to cover his scruffy red hair.
An absolute folk hero in Clare, there was no sight like Lohan's emergence from the full-back line, sporting the red helmet, and clearing the ball.
Inevitably, the helmet would be "discarded", as Ger Canning would say, late in the game, as if as a sign for the Clare players and fans to lift it for the Championship minutes.
Ger "The Sparrow" O'Loughlin
In the 90s, the round Mycro helmet was the flavour of the month for about 3 years. With faceguarded helmets becoming compulsory at underage level, the spread was far and wide. There were always the hardcore Cooperites out there though, who began reshaping their ancient helmets with modern guards. Eventually, this crew would win the war, and by about 1999, you wouldn't be seen dead in the round Mycro.
Of those who carried it off in its hey day, The Sparrow was probably the most iconic. His white helmet, his nickname, and his goals all made him one of the stand out players in the great Clare team of the decade.
While "The Sparrow's" Mycro helmet was far from unique in the mid-90s, Colm Bonnar's Cooper certainly was. While classic Cooper helmets were generally left over ice hockey helmets from a by-gone era, Bonnar's seems to be a more modern hockey helmet? Actually, we've no idea. It stood out though.
While the round Mycro helmet made somewhat of a breakthrough, another staple of the 1990s was the poor unfortunate on every underage team was landed with this monstrosity.
Cork's Timmy McCarthy was one of the few to bring the weird upside washing basket to senior inter-county level, and he somehow made it his own.
It drops points somehow for McCarthy replacing it with a more standard helmet later in his career, but he'll always be remembered for his original, and best.
John Mullane's red helmet qualifies as iconic for its rareness early in his career. Before helmets became compulsory, Mullane would generally bring out the red Cooper once or twice a season, and it would last for an average of about six minutes, before being discarded.
The only helmet on the list that's more about the accessory than the main event. Like Mullane's, Storey's white helmet on its own was probably not worn often enough to be iconic, but that chin strap? Amazing.
Like Lohan's and Deane's, it difficult to see what use McCarthy's iconic green and white helmet was to him. This particular model has even less accessories as the two mentioned above, with the ear guard (Is it a guard, what actually is that thing?) not even attached.
The most normal helmet to have made the list thus far, Henry's was iconic because it was the calling card of the greatest hurler ever. The green of Ballyhale and the black and amber of Kilkenny became Shefflin's uniform from his first All-Ireland appearance in 1999 to his last in 2014.
While the yellow helmet has been a favourite of Tipp hurlers for years, no Tipp player had as iconic a connection with the helmet as Lar.
With his socks up and his yellow helmet on, Lar was unmistakable on the field.
Joe Canning's old red helmet belongs in the same category as Corbett's and Shefflin's, but astoundingly, Joe switched things up in 2017, changing to a white helmet. He did win the All-Ireland, so we'll forgive him the change, but it wasn't a popular move in these parts!
Sadly, but in a really nice touch, Keady's white helmet was brought to the altar at his funeral in 2017. In the days of few helmets, Keady's white number really stood out in the crowd.
He wore it for the 1988 season, where he was named hurler of the year, and upon his sad death, most of the clips used to honour his memory included him wearing the classic white helmet.
So, who have we missed out on? Let us know.