Tipperary captain Pádraic Maher accepts neither he or any of his team-mates will be able to play all league and championship games next year because of the condensed schedule, writes John Fogarty.
If Tipperary are to return to the Division 1 final, they will have eight games in nine weeks while their four Munster matches come in as many weeks.
The five-time All Star acknowledges not only the intense run of matches from the end of January to the end of March will mean players will have to take rests but the rush of provincial championship outings from May 20 will compel manager Michael Ryan to utilise more of his panel.
“I’m not going to lie — you want to play every game and that’s the way I’ve always been and I presume alot the lads are as well, but that’s up to Mick and the management team,” Maher told Tipp FM’s Extra Time.
“I’ve no doubt they will use the league to blood a lot of new lads as well but at the same time we still want to come out of the league with a (championship) team in mind.
“At the end of the day, you need to blood more new players because the way the championship is now you’re going to need more than 20 players; you’re going to need the bones of 25 because you’re going to pick up injuries, suspensions, anything could happen.
"It’s vital that you do have a really strong panel. We all want to play every game but I don’t think that’s going to be physically possible.
“We’re going to be playing four weeks in a row and they’re going to be four massive championship matches. Luckily enough, we get to play two of them at home. It’s going to be tough going. We want to be heading into the fifth weekend when we have our bye not relying on anybody else to do us a favour, that we have the work done ourselves and let them fight it out themselves in the last week.
“We want to be building momentum week after week to get the results that we want. It’s the one good thing (of the new format).
"You lose to Cork (this year), there’s a five-week gap and you have to listen to a lot of critical analysis of what happened for a month whereas now you have a chance to move on and concentrate on the next day because you can’t afford to keep looking back.”
After clubs decided on the county championship schedule last week, Maher will be playing with Thurles Sarsfields in April and September. The April divisional dates pose a difficulty for manager Ryan although he refers to them as “a challenge”.
He said: “The big thing we have to plan around now is the workload on our players. We still need to get to the furthest point we possibly can in the league. It’s an early competition, we’re in Division 1A, we know how competitive that is.
"We were in the league final last season, obviously that didn’t go well for us and that’s something we want to turn around as well. It is a target of ours to do as well as we can in the league.
“However, what we now know is immediately after that we are planning on four or five games depending on which division you’re in. I know they’re knock-out games, which is a help, (but) the winners will keep playing.
“I have no issue with that — the clubs had their say in a democratic process. Our challenge is managing workload and deciding how we approach the league and when are we going to get our work done. We have a quota of work that needs to get done and we have to ask ourselves how are we going to get it done and when are we going to get it done. Look, we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
Meanwhile, Ned Quinn will step down as Kilkenny chairman later this month having been involved in the role or the secretary’s for 18 years. The Mooncoin man will take on the position as Central Council delegate while Jimmy Walsh moves from secretary to succeed Quinn and vice-chairman Conor Denieffe fills the secretary slot.
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.