Leinster chairman Jim Bolger has admitted a radical move to a new-look eight-team Leinster hurling championship, comprising two groups of four, is unlikely. Bolger had mooted that possibility in July though has now acknowledged that a simple expansion from five to six teams is more likely.
The secretaries and operations managers of Leinster counties will meet tomorrow evening where discussions about the future of the hurling championship are anticipated. A proposal, or potentially a number of proposals regarding the championship structure, is then expected to come before a full Leinster Council meeting in late September.
But Bolger reiterated there will be no change to the five-time structure until 2021 at the earliest.
“We did raise the idea of two groups of four but probably the feeling now is that going from five to six teams has a better chance of success,” said Bolger. “We did have a meeting on it and we invited general submissions for the first of September though with the All-Ireland football replay we haven’t sat down as of yet to collate them.
We are meeting with the secretaries and operations managers on Wednesday and we’ll see how they feel. But because next year is sorted and we’re continuing on with five teams in the group, it’s really just looking to see where we go in the future. Ultimately, we’ll put a motion in (to Annual Congress) and be proactive about it. That is the situation of where we are.
Various hurling figures have called on the GAA to expand the Leinster championship to six teams, to give the team promoted from the Joe McDonagh Cup a fighting chance of survival. Carlow won the 2018 McDonagh Cup but lost all four of their games in this year’s Leinster championship and were immediately relegated, to be replaced by Eddie Brennan’s Laois for 2020.
If the six-team proposal is ultimately passed, Laois are unlikely to have the threat of relegation hanging over them next year with a sixth team, the 2020 McDonagh Cup winners, likely to join them in Leinster for 2021. Colm Bonnar, in charge of Carlow, called on the Leinster Council to move to a six-team setup in order to give ‘genuine hope’ of survival to weaker counties.
Bolger ruled out the idea of using next month’s scheduled Special Congress in Cork, which will deal with the future of the football Championship, to rubber-stamp change in time for 2020.
Meanwhile, former Waterford boss Derek McGrath has played down the extent of his new role with the Laois minors. McGrath will work as a coach with the Leinster county but maintained that ‘it won’t be as prominent as was speculated’ following initial reports that emerged last month. “I will be involved but it’ll very much be in an ancillary role,” school-teacher McGrath told OTB AM.
“I’m going to do a night course in executive coaching and positive psychology so, as part of that, there’ll be a placement opportunity involved. I was approached by a friend of mine who is involved with Laois and I’ll be involved in some sort of coaching capacity there in the new year, but it certainly won’t be as prominent as was speculated.”