Dublin wary of Leinster expansion

THE expansion of the Leinster hurling championship will make it more competitive in the short-term, according to Dublin Secretary John Costello.

But he is worried the introduction of Galway may stunt their ambitions and the development of the team — and that it may not be in the best interests of Offaly, Laois and Wexford either.

In his report for next week’s annual convention, he slams critics of the Board’s policy to oppose the addition of Galway and Antrim, explaining that it was the view of the clubs that Galway’s inclusion in particular could have a very negative effect on the progress of hurling in the capital.

“We were accused of being ‘narrow-minded,’ ‘lacking ambition’ and ‘not giving due consideration to the overall picture’. These comments could not have been wider off the mark and were condescending to both our club delegates and County Board officials,’’ he states.

“Democracy is all very fine but it’s easy to make grand gestures and vote Galway into Leinster when you’re from Munster, Connacht, Ulster — or indeed some Leinster counties — knowing that it won’t matter an iota to you.

Look at what happened Antrim a few years ago when they were fed to the wolves because counties voted with a proposal that was clearly damaging to Antrim. It’s up to every county to do what they think is right for them ... so Dublin, Wexford, Offaly have no need to apologise for defending their own patch.

“Dublin has been building for a brighter future at under-age level in recent times but we still have not reached a provincial decider at senior level since 1991.

“We are still piecing together the jigsaw which we are confident can make us a power again but it will take time, patience, perseverance, expertise and plenty of sweat. For Galway, winning an All-Ireland at senior level is the final piece of an almost complete jigsaw and let’s hope their short-term success does not come at the long-term cost to Dublin, among others, in the chasing pack in Leinster.’’

Pointing out that the footballers achieved the four-in-a-row for the fifth time in the county’s history, he agrees that the progress of some counties via the back door has lessened the importance of provincial titles.

“How daft is it that provincial football champions who lose quarter-finals have no second chance. It happened Dublin in both 2005 and 2008. This year three of the four provincial champions (Dublin, Armagh and Galway) lost quarter-final ties to Tyrone, Wexford and Kerry, all of whom had been beaten before. Yet they progressed. Apart from specific cases, does it not downgrade the provincial championships that the qualifiers provide as many quarter-finalists as they do?

“Will it have a damaging impact on the provincials now that we have had an All-Ireland final where neither of the teams (Kerry and Tyrone) won a provincial title?’’

His suggestion is that only two teams should come through the qualifier route to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, that the four provincial champions should play-off and the two losing counties meet the two qualifier winners. This system would guarantee the presence of two provincial champions in the semi-finals each year, while the other two would be given a second chance to qualify.

Echoing player concerns over drug-testing, Costello proposes that tests should be conducted immediately before games or, alternatively, that blood tests would be carried out.

He welcomes the progress made in the provision of their planned centre of excellence in Rathcoole, which will feature four full-sized floodlit pitches (one of them synthetic), two speed training areas, a perimeter running track, a pavilion, viewing terrace and a spectator stand for over a thousand people.

He also refers to the report of the Conroller and Auditor General Report in the context of the GAA receiving only a small percentage of €1.4bn. in levies paid by developers to local authorities for the provision of services, including community facilities and sports grounds.

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