Hurling again treated as poor relation in league debacle

It was Winston Churchill who once said “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter”.

Hurling again treated as poor relation in league debacle

The quote is an apt one in the wake of Central Council’s vote to retain the six-team version of the National Hurling League but with the ridiculous addition of quarter-finals between Division 1A and 1B.

Basically, it’s a confirmation of what they backed 11 months ago. Thirty six delegates voted on the Carlow-Westmeath proposal. Approximately 48 make up Central Council. Were there as many as 12 abstentions?

The management committee must be wondering why they bothered at all to ask Central Council to revisit a structure that so desperately needed to be revisited.

Worse still, it’s in place for the next three years. That means until 2016, we’re going to have the preposterous situation of effectively the 10th placed team, who could lose more games than they win against Division 1B opposition, facing the best in Division 1A for a semi-final place.

That also means until 2016, the fifth and sixth placed teams must face one another in a relegation play-off while the four teams below them have a shot at a national title.

And here we were thinking league competitions are supposed to improve once they enter a knockout phase.

Not alone that, the stakes have just got higher in Division 1A, where it’s guaranteed one place will separate a team from a quarter-final or relegation. Reward and punishment should never be that intimate. As well as that, there is still the strong possibility one or two Division 1A counties will only receive two home games. Promotion of the game, how are ya?

Just who in their right minds could believe this is a better option for the league or hurling than the Michael Burns’ Super 12 proposal, the Carlow-Westmeath Super 14 variation of that or the eight-team Division 1?

Ignorance, we can safely presume, was at the heart of the matter. Last year, Dublin chairman Andy Kettle hit the nail on the head when he said of the voting procedure: “It’s democracy and it’s not democracy to a certain extent because you will have people voting at Central Council on this proposal and it doesn’t really affect their county teams.”

Do Cavan, who don’t actually bother to field a team in the National Hurling League, never mind the Lory Meagher Championship but had a vote on Saturday, actually care what becomes of the competition? Aside from Cavan, there were at least another 18 counties who had a say in the ballot but were largely unaffected by it. We’d all like to think altruism is alive and well in the GAA but indifference would have been rife among several delegates.

Saturday’s decision will strengthen calls for hurling to be run as an entity all on its own. That won’t be to many people’s liking in Croke Park but it’s understandable. If football counties can’t be bothered, who can hurling folk trust only themselves with enshrining the game? During the summer, then Limerick manager John Allen called for a separate governing body in the wake of controversial decisions made by referees.

That was one step further than former GAA president Nickey Brennan’s support earlier in the year for changes to discipline and refereeing to illustrate differences between the codes.

GAA president Liam O’Neill’s holistic approach to his time in office has been impressive and his determination to bring camogie and ladies football under the auspices of the organisation are welcome.

However, there must be a recognition within Croke Park that hurling is not a sister but a cousin to football.

The powers-that-be at least know how sensitive hurling counties have become. During the black card debate, O’Neill and GAA director general Páraic Duffy were at pains to insist the rule changes were exclusive to football.

Last week, O’Neill told a Sunday newspaper he’d like to see the black card introduced to hurling. He didn’t dare say that earlier in the year for fear the hurling fraternity would think measures aimed at curing football’s ills were being lumped on their game and they would vote against it at Congress.

There are sections of hurling people who are terribly snobby but is it any wonder more of them are becoming so entrenched, when predominantly football counties show no sense or awareness of what’s best for the other code, one they are also trusted in protecting and promoting? As much as it was made out to be in certain quarters, this wasn’t about Cork and Limerick worming their way back into the top flight.

Yes, any of the three other proposals, two of which were on the table on Saturday, would have seen them catapulted back into Division 1.

But there was a bigger picture here — the welfare of the second biggest national competition in hurling. Once again, it has been mistreated. After the outrageously exciting season hurling has enjoyed, that’s a downright shame.

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Clubs beating punishing schedules

The punishing schedules of Cratloe and Castleknock over the weekend obviously highlighted the claustrophobic fixture binds which county boards and provinces find themselves in at this time of year.

What can’t be lost, though, is the sheer scale of achievement each club reached in winning their games; Cratloe combining a county title with a provincial win over Ballinacourty while Castleknock on Sunday claimed promotion to Division 2 in Dublin just a couple of hours before eight of their players, including Ciarán Kilkenny, won a Leinster special junior hurling semi-final (the footballers also played on Friday night).

There’s so much to marvel in those genuine heroics.

However if, as Newstalk claimed on Sunday, the GAA don’t see the squeeze being put on clubs as a significant problem, then there’s plenty to worry about.

Brogan pick creates buzz beyond Listowel

Shock! Horror! The decision by the Listowel Independent Traders Association to invite Bernard Brogan to turn on the town’s Christmas lights has not been received all too well in the county.

Now, who would have seen that coming?

The organisation itself, of course.

Would the retiring Tomás Ó Sé have generated as much attention in flicking the switch as the All Star who kicked four points against the Kingdom in the All-Ireland semi-final? Brogan’s mother Maria hails from Listowel but surely local publican Billy Keane was taking liberties when quoted as saying the player is as much a man of the town as a Dubliner.

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