Kerry, along with Antrim, Carlow, Laois, Meath, and Westmeath, will compete in the new tier-two championship this summer.
The reward for the two finalists is a place in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals against the third-placed teams from the Leinster and Munster championships proper, but when it came to promotion from the second tier, delegates at Special Congress handed Kerry the short straw.
If a non-Munster team wins the Joe McDonagh Cup, they are elevated to the Leinster championship the following year.
Were Kerry to emerge victorious, however, they will be forced into a play-off against the bottom-placed team from the Munster round-robin.
“When you look at the way we will be treated if we were to win it, you just wonder what logic was used or was there any thought put into it. We are being treated differently than everyone else. As far as I can see, Kerry have been thrown under the bus,” O’Connor asserted.
“I am very disappointed that, if we finish top of the group, we have to play the bottom team in Munster. It appears to have been plucked out of the sky. It was a classic case of shifting the goalposts pretty quickly. We were in Leinster last year, but now when it suits somebody high up, we are thrown to the lions down in Munster to play a Cork, Clare, Limerick, or whoever.
“How can there be one rule for Kerry and a different rule for the rest? It does nothing for hurling and I am not happy with it.”
Relegation from Division 1B last spring means Kerry once more find themselves in Division 2A of the league. They’re favourites for a swift return back up the ladder and are bolstered by their recent Munster SHL win over Cork.
“We have done a good pre-season and have the win over Cork, albeit their third string team, but it was a win and so we are hoping that will stand to us. We would love to be promoted, but you have to be respectful of your opposition.”
Mikey Boyle, Jason Diggins and Darren Dineen will miss this Sunday’s trip to Ruislip. Michael O’Leary, Paud Costello and James Godley are unable to commit this year.