The 11-week break afforded to Waterford between league and championship is the most recent example of why the hurling structure needs to change, according to Galway’s David Burke.
The Tribesmen ended Waterford’s league campaign at the quarter-final juncture on April 2, with Derek McGrath’s charges waiting on a return to competitive fare until Sunday’s Munster semi-final against Cork in Semple Stadium.
Galway, by way of contrast, had two championship wins stashed away by the time Barry Kelly got proceedings underway in Thurles. And when you factor in Galway’s league semi and final encounters, they outnumber Waterford by four to one in terms of games played over the past two and a half months.
Burke’s schedule has been in marked contrast.
“Between the four games with Galway and three games with the club, I’ve played seven times since the Waterford league quarter-final fixture and they’ve not had an inter-county game during that period. That doesn’t make any sense. So obviously, they were going to be flat the last day,” insisted the three-time All-Star.
Burke, a secondary school teacher, coached the St Brigid’s, Loughrea team which reached the Croke Cup semi-final earlier this year.
Their training to games ratio was two to one. His wish is for a similar balance to be struck at inter-county level.
“It’s getting to that point where you want to be playing games every week and the training load is less. That’s kind of where players are saying they’re getting burnt out from.”
The Galway midfielder is in favour of changing the format of the provincial championships to round-robin. He’s not sure, however, if the blueprint to go before Special Congress at the end of September is the finished article in terms of delivering a sustainable hurling model.
“We’re getting to a stage where a lot of players just want to be playing games week in, week out. There are all these changes now and this mightn’t be the thing that works, but it’s going to be trial and error for three years and I think that’s good.”
Might it lead to an open draw?
“It could. You could have the provincial championships earlier on in the year and then an open draw later, maybe. It could be even 10 years down the line before we arrive at a set system that works.”
From a Galway perspective, two home fixtures each summer is the main attraction of the new proposals.
Not since the 2011 qualifier win over Clare has a championship game been played in Pearse Stadium.
“That’s a big thing. We might get two league games at home, one of them might be a big game where the crowd goes and that’s just once a year. We had that when Waterford came and that was it. If we have one big championship game or two, it just gets the crowd in Galway going to it. You might get in people that mightn’t go to games or mightn’t be able to travel a longer distance.”
Manager Micheál Donoghue is equally keen for reform, remarking that the county’s underage teams were “neglected” in recent years in having to enter the All-Ireland minor and U21 competitions at the knockout stage in late July and early August.
“The proposed changes are very proactive,” said the Galway boss. “From the senior perspective, it’s going to be good to get some home games and, obviously, the U21s going into Leinster. For the last couple of years, I think the U21s have probably been neglected. In an ideal world, if we could get both minor and U21 teams into Leinster and get competitive games for all the teams, that’d be great, but it’s a hugely positive step for us.”
Looking ahead to their Leinster final meeting with Wexford on July 2, Donoghue ruled out Johnny Glynn who underwent surgery on his knee three weeks ago.
Donoghue expects the Ardrahan forward, who is set to return to Ireland in the coming weeks, to be based at home for the remainder of the summer.
“He’s in the States at the minute, so he’s doing rehab and stuff over there. The timeline, hopefully, is that he’ll be able to do something the week after the Leinster final.”
The extent of Cathal Mannion’s ankle injury, incurred during Sunday’s Leinster semi-final win over Offaly, has still to be determined.
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