Tipp two-tier hurling plan stirs up a hornet’s nest

PROPOSALS to introduce a two-tier hurling championship at senior level in Tipperary for 2004 have stirred up a hornet’s nest among a number of the county’s leading clubs.

Last year’s senior championship consisted of 26 teams, but under the new proposals, this is to be reduced to 12 in the “A” grade and 13 in the “B” grade. Former county champions Borris-Ileigh, Cashel King Cormacs, Hollycross-Ballycahill, Roscrea and Kilruane MacDonaghs would be relegated to the “B” grade.

In the latter’s case, this is totally unacceptable. They won the county intermediate title in 2003 which automatically guaranteed them senior status, but would be denied the chance to compete in the top flight for the coming year if the new proposals are accepted.

Len Gaynor, one of MacDonaghs famous “sons” argues that the new proposals will cut off half the supply line of hurlers to the various county teams.

“If we were in a weak county I could understand the reasoning behind wanting to reduce the number of teams in your senior championship, but in Tipp’s case, it would be counter-productive.

“Obviously the standard of hurling in the “B” grade would be lower and with quite a number of our inter-county players involved in teams that would be relegated to that grade, it follows that their standards would drop accordingly.

“Three of the clubs who would be relegated, Borris-Ileigh, Kilruane MacDonaghs and Roscrea have won the All-Ireland club title in the past and are among the traditional hurling clubs in the county.

“To trim your senior hurling championship from 26 down to 12 in one fell swoop is not the answer.” These proposals would tear the heart out of Tipperary hurling if they are passed.

“I would concede however that the standard of the Tipperary championship has been very poor in recent years and something has to be done to improve it. Part of the reason for that in my view is that the players are not getting a sufficient number of games. Under the present system the minimum is two co. championship games for players. I know the inter-county scene is impinging on that but it’s not the overall cause. I would look for 24 teams in the championship and break it up into 4x6, guaranteeing a minimum of five games for players.

“There would be a problem playing all those games but where there’s a will there’s a way. We must provide sufficient championship matches for our hurlers, otherwise we will continue to struggle at inter-county level.”

Michael Burke of the Upperchurch/Drombane club said the new proposals have no chance of being accepted.

“Those clubs relegated down to the “B” grade have signified their intentions not to take part and have submitted counter proposals to the county board for their meeting on January 27 when a final decision will be made on the format for this year’s championship. Under our proposals we would be facilitating regrading where the worst senior team every year would drop down and the intermediate county champions would come up.”

Concern at the drop in standards of its county championship in recent years, prompted the county board to set up a Special Games Structures Committee early in 2003 under the chairmanship of Pat Moroney (Aherlow) to look at the overall picture and bring forward proposals. The most radical is to create a two-tier championship.

The top grade: Ballingarry, Boherlahan/Dualla, Cappawhite, Galtee Rovers, Killenaule, Knockavilla/Kickhams, Loughmore/Castleiney, Moneygall, Mullinahone/CJ Kickhams, Nenagh Eire Og, Thurles Sarsfields, Toomevara

“B” grade: Borris-Ileigh, Carrick Swans, Cashel King Cormacs, Clonaulty/Rossmore, Dom/Inch, Hollycross/Ballycahill, JK Brackens, Kilruane MacDonaghs, Newport, Portroe, Roscrea, Templederry Kenyons, Upperchurch/Drombane.

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