Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald says non-hurling counties shouldn’t have the same say in the league structures as those where there is a tradition of the game.
Fitzgerald, who saw his side retain their Division 1A status recently, has been one of the most outspoken critics of the current system and has no love for next year’s format either with quarter-finals between Divisions 1A and 1B.
“I’m saying this as a hurling person, not as Clare manager — I’m just concerned. I know it’s easy to say the counties need to get together, decide what the best system is,” said Fitzgerald.
“But how many counties are voting on this? A lot of counties there that don’t have much interest are voting on this, and I don’t agree with it.
“This needs to be looked at, put a committee in place and see how we can help the counties progress. I think there can be a better system. A lot of people would say that because Cork went down it will change. Other people will say because Cork went down it definitely won’t change because it will be seen as them changing it. But forget about that stuff, the politics of who’s going up or down, and let’s just change it, end of story.”
As he said following the play-off win over Cork last month, Fitzgerald prefers a 10-team top flight but any change would require a two-thirds majority backing at Central Council.
“Start with 10 teams, at the end of January, and forget about the Waterford Crystal. You’re playing competitive action from the end of January. Too early for hurling? That’s rubbish. Like, we had 1,500 people at one of our Waterford Crystal games. Why not start earlier? The amount of people who knew nothing about hurling, even from abroad that I’ve met and said to me ‘that game is unreal’… let’s have more of it.
“Start the end of January, and I guarantee we’ll be finished at the same time anyway. It won’t affect club games, that’s for sure.
“And I’d like to see one up, and one down. That gives teams who think they’re good enough to get up the chance, if they want to.”
Fitzgerald was also in favour of the Hurling Development Workgroup’s proposal to play Munster and Leinster championship ties on a home and away basis. Ennis’ Cusack Park hasn’t hosted a Munster SHC game in 16 years.
“You’d still like to retain the Munster championship but round robin after that? Maybe. Some people say it could kill club hurling, but I don’t think so. We can work together. Like Clare playing Waterford down in Walsh Park, or them coming into Ennis, or us going into Limerick. There’d be some craic in that, some buzz, and something worth looking at. Everything evolves as time goes on, so maybe it is something to look at.”
Fitzgerald believes it’s mere fortune that Kilkenny and Tipperary have ended up in this Sunday’s Division 1 final.
“It’s pure luck. Fair play, they’ve shown form in the last few weeks but ye all know it could have been anyone. They’re probably the two best teams in the country but I don’t think they’re as far ahead as they were a few years ago and that the gap is closing.”
Meanwhile, Kerry manager Tom Howard believes there is another level in inter-county hurling that isn’t being recognised by the GAA.
“I think that there are three tiers in hurling. The way the structure are at the moment, it is only servicing two and I know my predecessor John Meyler would have felt that Kerry should be playing Munster championship hurling and look, I would respect John who is a great hurling man.
“But my opinion would be a little different, that right now Christy Ring is the level that Kerry are capable of playing. In the league, Division 2A is the proper level also.”
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