Former Kilkenny hurler Kevin Fennelly has launched a scathing attack on the present championship structure, calling for the provincial format to be discarded.
Fennelly, responding to Richie Hogan’s remarks on Monday night where the 2014 hurler of the year revealed he “hates” the structure of the All-Ireland championship, believes the game would be better served by a Champions-League-style format.
By virtue of their Leinster success in 2014, Kilkenny entered this year’s provincial championship at the semi-final juncture and reached next month’s decider after playing three games.
“If I had a choice I’d love to maybe play six or seven games at least in a championship. You don’t have that choice,” Hogan told Newstalk’s Off The Ball.
Fennelly agrees with the Kilkenny midfielder that teams should be afforded a greater number of games in the summer, adding that the Leinster championship has been diluted by the presence of Galway and Antrim.
Leinster Council chairman John Horan, when contacted, did not wish to weigh into the discussion: “Given Central Council last month adopted the present format for 2016 and 2017, it is a bit early to be getting into a debate on potential structure changes,” he said.
Former Kilkenny manager Fennelly proposes scraping the provincial championships in favour of four groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
“There is no doubt the Munster championship still carries a bit of meaning, but right now the Leinster championship isn’t up to much, as Kilkenny are picking it up every year.
“It was nice when Dublin won Leinster, but when Galway won it, a Connacht team winning Leinster, to me that is a joke. I don’t agree with Galway or Antrim being in Leinster. It hasn’t improved anything for Galway.
“It makes no sense Kerry coming into Leinster next summer either. It makes a bigger joke of the provincial championships.
“I ask the GAA why are they keeping the provincial championships going. It is certainly not for the players.”
Fennelly continued: “If they want to even up the whole thing and give everyone an equal chance, seed the top four teams, throw the rest into a hat and make four groups of four. The sooner that happens, the better, and then nobody can complain about the present system and Kilkenny getting into an All-Ireland final with only two matches, which I believe was the case this year, as the Wexford game was a non-event.
“I understand Richie’s frustration, as every hurler wants to play every couple of weeks, not playing one match and then not playing another for five weeks.
“I’m not saying this proposal will change things, but it will give teams a chance to play against different opposition.
“There is no doubt that the Munster championship is tougher, but Kilkenny, Galway and Dublin are well able to hold their own against the Munster teams.”
Though somewhat surprised at Hogan’s comments, coming as they did mid-championship, Fennelly doesn’t expect change to be forthcoming.
“I think the reason the GAA won’t change is because there are too many people on the Munster and Leinster Councils being looked after. From a financial point of view, the councils are doing well out of the provincial championships.”
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