NHL structure hit with more criticism

The integrity of next year’s National Hurling League has been further called into question by an anomaly in Division 1B.

The team that finishes top of the table after five rounds will be promoted to Division 1A in 2015. They will also qualify for the Division 1 quarter-finals along with the three teams that finish directly below them.

However, should the second, third or fourth placed teams go on to win the National League they will remain in Division 1B.

It’s another criticism of the structure following the controversial quarter-final link-up between Division 1A and 1B.

The fourth-placed team in Division 1B, effectively the county with the 10th best finish, will reach the knock-outs, while those in fifth and sixth positions in Division 1A miss out and must face one another in a relegation play-off. It is proposed the league will begin a week earlier next year than this season, which will give counties a reprieve from the punishing four week run of games endured last March.

Cork’s chances of returning to Division 1A one season after they were relegated are increased by the fact they have three games at home — Limerick in their Saturday opener on February 15, followed by Offaly on March 9 and Wexford in their final round game on March 23.

However, they are likely to be without Aidan Walsh for their game against Offaly, which is currently scheduled for the same day as the Cork footballers’ game against Derry. The dual player has stated he will give priority to Brian Cuthbert.

Division 1A will open with the visit of Waterford to Tipperary on the same evening as Cork v Limerick with All-Ireland champions Clare welcoming league winners Kilkenny the following day as Dublin travel to Galway.

For the second season in a row, Clare have three of their five games at home and they will again welcome Kilkenny, Waterford and Galway.

However, 2014 is the start of a new two-year cycle, meaning the amount of games teams had at home and who they played are irrelevant to this past season.

Meanwhile, Dublin’s home Division 1 football fixture with Kildare has been provisionally moved to Saturday, March 8. It had been hoped the game would go ahead on Friday.

The Armagh v Down Division 2 clash is still pencilled in to take place in the Athletic Grounds on Friday, February 7.

The Dublin County Board will be hoping to pair one of their hurlers’ two home games against Clare and Kilkenny with two of their footballers’ home fixtures.

However, as it stands the Clare game takes place on a non-football weekend while the Kilkenny game falls a day before Jim Gavin brings his footballers to Derry.

Counties have until next Monday to come back to Croke Park about venue choices and double header suggestions.

Provisional 2014 National Hurling League fixtures

Subject to agreement with counties and venues to be decided

Division 1A

Round 1 - Feb 15: Tipperary v Waterford; Feb 16: Galway v Dublin; Clare v Kilkenny.

Round 2 - Feb 23: Dublin v Clare, Kilkenny v Tipperary, Waterfordv Galway.

Round 3 - Mar 8: Tipperary v Clare; Mar 9: Kilkenny v Galway, Waterford v Dublin.

Round 4 - Mar 15: Dublin v Kilkenny; Mar 16: Galway v Tipperary, Clare v Waterford.

Round 5 - Mar 23: Kilkenny v Waterford, Tipperary v Dublin, Clarev Galway.

Division 1B

Round 1 - Feb 15: Cork v Limerick; Feb 16: Antrim v Wexford, Offaly v Laois.

Round 2 - Feb 22: Laois v Cork; Feb 23: Wexford v Offaly, Limerick v Antrim.

Round 3 - Mar 9: Cork v Offaly, Laois v Antrim, Limerick v Wexford.

Round 4 - Mar 16: Wexford v Laois, Antrim v Cork, Offaly v Limerick.

Round 5 - Mar 23: Laois v Limerick, Cork v Wexford, Offaly v Antrim.

Division 2A

Round 1 - Feb 16: Derry v Kerry; London V Westmeath, Kildarev Carlow.

Round 2 - Feb 23: Kerry v Kildare, Carlow v London, Westmeath v Derry.

Round 3 - Mar 9: Carlow v Derry, London v Kildare, Westmeath v Kerry.

Round 4 - Mar 2: Derry v London;Mar 16: Kerry v Carlow, Kildare v Westmeath.

Round 5 - Mar 23: Carlow v Westmeath, London v Kerry, Kildare v Derry.

Mar 30: Division 1 quarter-finals

Apr 20: Division 1 semi-finals

May 4: Division 1 final


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