No change to structure of hurling league before 2015

Cork's Cathal Naughton shows his disappointment after defeat by Clare in last weekend's Allianz League Division 1A relegation play-off. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cork's Cathal Naughton shows his disappointment after defeat by Clare in last weekend's Allianz League Division 1A relegation play-off. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Regardless of what proposals may be brought to Central Council regarding a change to the current structure of the Allianz Hurling League, Cork, Limerick, Offaly, Wexford, Antrim and Laois will all play in the lower division in 2014.

GAA communications manager Alan Milton yesterday confirmed any efforts to change the league formats would have to go before Central Council — but not before 2015.

“We haven’t heard anything yet from any county, but if anyone wants to propose changing the current format they can bring it to Central Council, that’s the forum for any such discussions,” he said.

“Because it’s not a rule change it doesn’t have to go before Congress. There’s no urgency though, the current structure will be in place for 2014 and that will not change. The earliest that anything can happen is 2015, and that’s if the appetite is there among the counties.”

Despite the mounting dissatisfaction with the current structure, which was only introduced in 2012 and tweaked for 2013, the complaints from several high-profile managers that the lack of games doesn’t allow for experimentation and the complaints from several high-profile counties about lost revenue, that appetite for change may not be shared elsewhere.

“Central Council has only recently come to the end of a lengthy and very thorough debate on this,” he said. “I don’t know if there was ever before such deliberation in the GAA on a competition and its structure, certainly not in recent times.

“Any county is entitled to bring it up again, but whether or not there’s an appetite to tackle it again, I don’t know.”

However, contrary to the common notion the format was created by officials in Croke Park, it was in fact a structure voted in by the counties themselves.

“Every county has representation on the Central Council and as with all other GAA matters, every county voted on this,” Milton explained.

“It’s the same if it’s a proposal dealing with football only. Every delegate from every county has a vote, that’s how Central Council operates, as a unit. There were three separate formats up for discussion, one from the Hurling Development Workgroup committee, one from the CCC and one from the Management Committee. The first two proposed the six-team groups, the Management Committee proposal was for an eight-team division.

“So seriously was the discussion taken that the vote was actually postponed on the first occasion to allow the delegates more time to tease out the different proposals. I think everyone appreciated that this was a big decision, a big call, and no-one wanted it rushed.

“When the vote was taken, they decided on the current set-up. The hope at Central Council was that this decision would put the issue to bed for a number of years, that the new structures would be given a chance to bed in, that we would get some degree of consistency in the competition, of permanency.

“We were trying to get away from the idea of constant chopping and changing. It was a very democratic forum, the way this structure was introduced.”

Judging by the reaction from the bigger hurling counties now, however, it’s certainly drawn out a majority of detractors. However, the current format has its defenders and there are positives emerging.

“It could be argued that already it’s working. When you look at how it all ended up in Division 1A, everything coming down to the final round of games, that generated huge interest.

“But something everyone seems to be overlooking is just how competitive all the other divisions have become — that was one of the ideas behind this structure. Next year you’re going to have Laois back up in Division 1B and with Cork, Limerick, Offaly, Wexford and Antrim, it’s going to be a competitive division again.

“The bottom line is that if any county wants to revisit this they can start the process, they’re entitled to do that, but it will take a sea change from the current opinion.”

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