BRIAN CODY believes it would be a ‘shame’ if the final stage of the Allianz NHL was abolished in favour of a conventional league format.
The GAA’s head of games Pat Daly mooted such a possibility this week, and the issue is certainly a topical one given the run of results last weekend which has guaranteed Kilkenny and Tipperary a place in this year’s decider with the last round of fixtures to be played.
Cody said: “That (final) was something we were always used to. I don’t remember it being any other way. We have had semi- and maybe quarter-finals in recent years as well. I think it would be shame not to have a league final.
“In other years people were saying you might be as well off not qualifying for a quarter- or semi-final because you had so many extra matches, but the top two teams have one extra match this year and that is going to be a very big game.”
There will be no change in the present structure next year, with the current format of an eight-team top tier due to operate again in 2010.
It isn’t just events at the summit that have triggered calls for change however. Clare’s draw in Parnell Park last week saw them relegated to Division Two, meaning all games in Division One are dead rubbers on April 19.
Yet GAA president Nickey Brennan disputes the theory that the league is not working.
“I wouldn’t agree with that. This year’s league has been far more successful than previous years. We have been unfortunate. We have had a misfiring Cork for a period and it is going to take them time to get back on track.
“Last year we had Cork absent early on in the season and it discommodes a number of counties. I accept that the last round is not going to mean much to any great extent. I’d like to see the semi-finals back but I am very conscious that we would have to find another weekend and that would impact on the club scene.”
Brennan and Cody stood on opposite sides of another fence yesterday with the former again arguing in favour of the experimental rules and the latter against. The matter will be decided on at Congress later this month in Cork.
“I would prefer if it was left as it was,” said Cody. “I don’t think there was any problem in the game. The game was top class as it was and it is a shame to see a fella get a yellow card after five minutes of a game. It could happen in a Leinster or Munster final or and All-Ireland semi-final or final for what may be a clumsy challenge. There is no dirt in the game, as far as I am concerned. Television, with the way things are highlighted, has done away with that.”
Competition structures and experimental rules aside, the biggest story in hurling these says is Kilkenny’s run since losing their first league game to Waterford in February.
The bad news is that the All-Ireland champions expect more troops to report for duty in the weeks to come.
JJ Delaney was very close to playing a part against Cork but is expected to be in the mix for the final round against Dublin on Sunday week.
Noel Hickey is some way behind in his rehabilitation following a Gilmore groin operation but again the prognosis is good. He is hoping to line out for his club Dunnamaggin in the first round of the county league in a fortnight.
Two others on the brink of returning to training are Derek Lyng and Cha Fitzpatrick. Lyng is on the way back after a hip operation while Fitzpatrick has recovered from the mumps and a second viral illness.
It says it all about this Kilkenny team that they have managed to dominate as they have without such a talented quartet and the debate has already begun as to whether they are hurling’s best ever team.
But Cody himself was less interested in the debate.
“It is irrelevant. There is no such thing as the best team ever. We were the best team in Nowlan Park last Sunday but that could change if we met Cork in three months’ time.
“That’s the way it is. It is not what it is about. We are taking part in the league right now. We will be trying to win that, obviously, but Tipperary will be there as well so it is going to be a huge battle. It went well for us the last day against Tipp and not for them but there will be a huge backlash from them.”
Thurles is expected to be chosen as the venue for that final.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved