Waterford chairman Paddy Joe Ryan says he will not burden clubs with “massive debt” so as to guarantee Munster championship hurling at Walsh Park.
Were the GAA’s recommended changes to the Liam MacCarthy Cup to receive the green light, the knockout structure of the Munster SHC would be replaced by a round-robin format for a three-year trial period (2018-20) where Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford would all face each other, playing two games at home and two away.
It is probable that Waterford would not be in a position to stage their home fixtures given the capacity of Walsh Park stands at 12,000 — June 1996 was the last occasion Walsh Park hosted a provincial hurling championship game, with Tipperary recording a 1-14 to 1-11 quarter-final victory in front of a crowd of 15,655.
The county board chairman says they are currently considering an upgrade of the venue but will not push ahead with plans until it is financially viable to do so.
Ryan is cognisant that any redevelopment would put financial strain on already struggling clubs and he is not prepared to further shackle them for the sake of two home games each summer. 2017 represents the last year of the club levy in Waterford, with senior clubs obliged to contribute €1,875 to board coffers, €1,500 for intermediate clubs, and €1,125 for junior clubs. 2016 accounts show the board recorded a profit of €51,368 last year.
“Even if the new proposals weren’t there, we still want to upgrade our stadium. We would love to have an 18,000 compact stadium for Walsh Park,” said Ryan.
“Our clubs, however, are just after coming out of a burden of debt. The situation is that we are nearly at break-even. If we are to borrow huge sums of money to fund a Walsh Park redevelopment, there would be great concern from the clubs. If we have to burden our clubs with massive debt in the present environment, that is not going to be easy. The clubs are struggling and my priority is to protect them. The structure and potential redevelopment of Walsh Park will be a decision for the clubs.”
He added: “When you go redeveloping, it is a massive undertaking. It is not just the redevelopment. When the construction is complete, there are huge costs in maintaining it. Everything has to be looked at.”
Depending on the attractiveness of the fixture, Ryan believes it would be possible for Walsh Park, in its present state, to accommodate certain games under the proposed plans.
“Waterford and Tipperary could be playing in the fourth round and one or both could be gone by then. What kind of a crowd would that draw? You’d have plenty of capacity then.”
The Waterford executive met on Tuesday night to pore over the seven-page document circulated by Croke Park.
“There was for and against it,” said Ryan.
“It appears there is less of a window for club games. My main focus is getting our county championships finished so we have full representation for the various Munster competitions. We have been berated in the past, unfairly so, for not having our county championships completed in time.”
In 2016, Waterford had no representative in the Munster club IFC, while Lismore were forced to play a provincial quarter-final less than 48 hours after winning the Waterford IHC. In 2015, Stradbally played Nemo in the Munster quarter-final 24 hours after claiming the county senior football title.
Galway chief executive John Hynes, meanwhile, has thrown his support behind the proposals given they provide “equal treatment” for the county’s minor and U21 teams, with the latter set to join Leinster.
“Our minors might not go into Leinster, but they would still be guaranteed two games with a good chance of a third.”
Hynes said: “The proposals regarding the senior championship are very good and should have a very positive impact on hurling. That we would get two home games is an extra bonus.”
Meath boss Martin Ennis has slammed plans to promote both Christy Ring Cup finalists Antrim and Carlow to an expanded Leinster SHC round-robin series next year.
Ennis fully accepts relegation back to the Christy Ring competition but insists two teams should not come up to compete in Leinster.
Instead, he is proposing a play-off with the Christy Ring Cup final runners-up to determine who will fill the fifth spot in next year’s provincial round-robin series.
“We’ve accepted that the winners of the Christy Ring go up and the team relegated (from the Leinster round robin) goes down. What we don’t accept is that the losers of the Christy Ring final jump straight up, and Meath still come down,” said Ennis.
“This is the proposal they’ve put out there and ahead of the weekend’s Christy Ring final, both teams are going into it thinking they’re already promoted. The loser gets an opportunity to go straight up when we have come back down. I’m disillusioned with the whole thing — how can you promote a team that loses a final?”
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