Former Offaly hurler Brian Carroll has accused the GAA of behaving in an elitist fashion by preserving the Munster SHC “at all costs”, while, at the same time, tearing Leinster apart.
Defeat for Offaly in Sunday’s Leinster SHC round-robin fixture against Dublin would see the Faithful County relegated from the province and condemn them to Joe McDonagh Cup fare next year.
For Dublin, it’s the same story.
Carroll, who represented the county from 2002-15, believes relegation would be “hugely demoralising” for Offaly and is fearful players might not be sufficiently motivated to put in the slog from November onwards for a “substandard competition”.
That either Offaly or Dublin will be barred from competing for their own provincial title for the first time in 2019 doesn’t sit well with Carroll.
Neither does he see it as fair the double-standards at play; one of the Munster five can only be relegated if they finish bottom of their group and then lose a play-off, which can only come about if Kerry were to win the Joe McDonagh Cup.
Prior to Special Congress last September, Cork secretary Frank Murphy said the possibility of Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, or Waterford being relegated “can’t happen”.
Carroll’s frustration is that counties in Leinster weren’t similarly safeguarded.
“I don’t understand how the bottom team in Leinster can be relegated, yet the bottom team in Munster gets a play-off if Kerry win the Joe McDonagh Cup. That is elitist,” he remarked.
“I understand where the GAA are coming from in trying to get teams competing against teams of their own level. But if Antrim win the Joe McDonagh Cup and Offaly go down, we have Galway and Antrim in Leinster, while we exclude Laois, Offaly, Carlow, Meath, and Westmeath from the so-called Leinster Championship.
“And yet, they will preserve Munster, at all costs. Don’t get me wrong, Munster is by far the best championship.
“But it seems to be elitist, preserving the strong counties and making sure they are happy.”
Echoing Anthony Daly’s comments on The Sunday Game, the former Offaly star has no problem with counties being promoted to the top table.
There is no need, however, to stymie the development of Offaly or Dublin, both under new management in 2018, in the process.
“There are 16 teams between Leinster, Munster, and the Joe McDonagh. My preference would be to make Leinster and Munster knockout again, then play an All-Ireland series with four groups of four.
"The top two in each go into the All-Ireland A championship and the bottom two go to All-Ireland B. Play the B final on the same day as the All-Ireland final proper.
“Realistically, the players from Offaly, Laois and these other counties are never going to play in an All-Ireland final. For the effort and training they put in, there should be a system that allows them to play on these big days.”
Carroll added:”Laois, Carlow, Kerry, and Antrim have been involved in a Leinster round-robin in previous years, going up and going down. It has a massive yo-yo effect and doesn’t do anything for these counties.
"I am not even sure if allowing the Joe McDonagh Cup finalists into the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals is much of a benefit to them. It could have been thought out better.
Although losing their opening games to Galway and Kilkenny by margins of 12 and nine points respectively, the Coolderry native was encouraged by elements of both performances.
Not so against Wexford when the difference was 24 and Offaly finished with 12 men — Oisín Kelly and Ronan Hughes miss the trip to Parnell Park after receiving straight reds.
“Last weekend was an absolute disaster, a massive step backwards. Oisín [Kelly] is the up and coming talent in Offaly. He got man of the match against Dublin in the opening round of the league at Croke Park.
"That will tell you the talent that guy has. The squad face a huge task on Sunday, but one that is not beyond them.”
Should they fail, the 34-year-old is worried as to how Offaly hurling will suffer by being stuck in the second-tier.
“It is harder to motivate players to put in that massive effort from November, with a view to playing in a sub-standard competition, which ultimately is what it is.
"The Joe McDonagh Cup has little or no exposure. I do feel for the players in it. They are forgotten about all too easily.
“From Offaly’s perspective, if they go down, the most important thing is to come straight back up.”
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