Limerick boss calls for league overhaul

LIMERICK manager Donal O’Grady has called for the creation of a new Allianz HL Division 2 to recognise the level of disproportion in the current group.

The Cork native suggested the top two divisions be seeded and split into groups of six with Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary and Waterford in the new Division 1 and Antrim, Clare, Laois, Limerick, Offaly and Wexford in Division 2.

“The Division 2 champions could then play the bottom team in Division 1 and if they win they go up and if they don’t, they stay there,” explained O’Grady.

“What you want every day that you go out is a competitive game. You don’t want to end up beating some county by 5-22 because eventually, if that happens, all you have to do is look at the crowds and the punters. But I think if you took those two sixes in either of the two competitions, it is going to be a close game.

“I think Division 1 was more competitive than ever this year. It went right down to the wire, it could have gone anyway on the last Sunday.”

O’Grady also took aim at the quality of the pitches being designated for games by county boards in Division 2.

“Let’s be quite honest as well, some of the (Division 2) grounds are not up to the standard that the GAA require.

“The GAA set out a set of regulations that you get and there are certain dug-outs, that substitutes have to sit in that place and this place, this must happen and that must happen, but it doesn’t happen.

“And there is nothing done about it. It keeps going on, keeps going on and keeps going on.

“I think the first thing (to be done) is to admit it.”

O’Grady fears hurling final will hinge on home advantage

“THE counties (involved) are probably playing at a division higher than they could be. They will probably argue that they need to be in Division 2 to give the young fellas coming up a goal to aim at and we saw this week what happened with Cavan this year.

“And anyone who is in the collecting trade, a Cavan hurling jersey might be valuable in 50 years’ time.

“But that is the way that things are gone and I don’t have the answers but with Division 2 there is definitely two divisions within that division.”

Meanwhile, O’Grady has claimed Clare’s home advantage in tomorrow’s Allianz HL Division 2 final could sway some of the decisions made by referee James McGrath.

O’Grady had no issue with the toss of a coin deciding the venue, however, he believes the Cusack Park crowd could influence the official.

“You’re going in to play Clare, above in Ennis, up in Cusack Park, so there’ll be a big home crowd there and, I’m not saying, you don’t see it too often.

“But in tight games, let’s be honest, refereeing decisions can be crucial, or whatever else, and if there’s a big roar from the home crowd it can, from time to time, influence the officials, and a home game I think is worth a couple of points any time.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge to Limerick to go up to Ennis again.

“This is a totally different affair. I think the problem with Division 2 finals is that there’s so much pressure not to lose that it loses itself as a spectacle.”

In response, Clare boss Ger O’Loughlin rubbished O’Grady’s suggestion, highlighting the controversial 65m free which was given to Tipperary in the 2009 Munster U21 HC final in Ennis.

“I honestly haven’t seen that happen in Ennis this year. I don’t know, maybe it’s the just games we’re playing in. But I don’t really think so, no. I think that’s Donal playing games a small bit.

“I honestly do feel myself that it won’t be the decisive factor on Saturday. If you look at the history books of Clare hurling, we lost an U21 Munster final to Tipp two years ago, that would tell you... a local call... you know!”

Meanwhile, Brian Cody has criticised the constant tinkering with the league format. The Kilkenny manager called for a final review of GAA fixtures but believes there are too many changes being made to the league structure.

“We can’t forget the whole club scene,” he said. “We must get club matches played at prime hurling time. I don’t think we should be deciding on inter-county fixtures in isolation. The club scene is too important in GAA to be neglected, which I suppose it is to an extent. Some sort of streamlining of the whole GAA calendar is going to be of benefit to everybody concerned.

“We shouldn’t be going for no semi-finals to checking out semi-finals. We know what’s involved. We know how many weekends are available.

“We shouldn’t be wandering from one thing to the next thing. We need to come together as an association.”

LIMERICK (SH v Clare): N Quaid; D Reale, G O'Mahoney (capt) T Condon; W McNamara, S Hickey, D Breen; D O'Grady, P Browne; D Hannon, R McCarthy, J Ryan; S Tobin, K Downes, G Mulcahy.

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