Don’t tinker with Munster plea

MUNSTER GAA chiefs have voiced dismay at proposals to scrap provincial hurling championships in favour of a Champions League style All-Ireland structure.

Hurling Development Committee (HDC) chairman Ned Quinn stated on Monday that he saw such a development as a formality within the next decade but Munster Council chairman Jimmy O’Gorman staunchly defended the provincial status quo yesterday.

“I am on record from after the Munster final as saying that the Munster Championship belongs to Munster,” said the Lismore clubman. “It has stood the test of time. We have a championship because of the work we have put into it down the years.

“Our structures are right, we have strong hurling counties.

“I don’t want to see the demise of the Munster Championship in my time.

“I feel very strongly about that.”

The All-Ireland hurling championship structure has been altered over the last decade but the Munster championship is still deemed to be untouchable and Quinn recognised it’s unique status on Monday.

However, the Kilkenny chairman stressed he didn’t envisage a situation where Munster could be kept as is while the rest of the counties competed in a ‘rest of Ireland’ grouping.

Though he begs to differ on that point as well, O’Gorman stressed that he was open to what others had to say and lauded the work being done by Quinn who has “hurling at heart”.

There is no easy answer, said O’Gorman.

The ongoing tinkering with the format has its genesis in the GAA’s attempt to grow the game beyond its traditional hinterland. Though standards are at an all-time high, the return to dominance of Cork and Kilkenny in recent years would appear to back that point up but O’Gorman believes the focus should change.

“I don’t see a whole lot of sense in piling a lot of money into the weaker counties,” said the Waterford man.

“If I had my way I would be putting a lot of money into the strong counties and keeping the strength up there.

“With the exception of Offaly and Clare coming through in the 80s and 90s, it has really been the same counties the whole time.

“The strong hurling counties from day one have remained strong.

“I would like to see the structures remain as they are and we (in Munster) are the standard bearers. We had a very good Munster Championship this year. We had six great games in Munster and we had five teams in the qualifying series.”

The question of championship structures has returned to the spotlight this week ahead of the weekend’s Special Congress which will debate the new format proposed by the HDC.

Designed to reduce the number of ‘meaningless’ games, among other things, O’Gorman’s main concern is that the constrained club scene will be one of the chief beneficiaries.

“If I have a worry at the moment regards hurling, it would be that we can’t play our county championships in the summertime when hurling should be played.

“County managers, in many places, now control the counties with the result that club players are frustrated because they don’t know when they are going to play. To keep hurling up to the level it is at, we have to seriously look at the grassroots, where it all starts.”

Not surprisingly then, O’Gorman is fully supportive of the HDC proposals this weekend.

“Going to a game is a family day out a lot of the time and it can be expensive. You need to be giving value for money as well. I have no problem with teams getting a second bite of the cherry if they are beaten once but, after that, you should be out.

“Then we might free up Sundays where we can play our county championships.”

O’Gorman also believes that county championships should be run regardless of the county side’s situation.

“What better way, if a county team is going well, than to get people out and watching club games when everyone is on a high? Play the club and county in tandem throughout the summer. A lot of counties at the minute, including my own, are playing their championships as a blitz.”

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