The magic of the Munster championship has been diminished by the new round-robin format, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín fears.
Believing making the top three, not making the final, is the be-all and end-all of the competition, the five-time Munster SHC winner appreciates he has to change with the times but yearns for the previous knock-out structure.
Although last Sunday’s crowds of 24,490 in Cork and 20,423 in Limerick were respectable, he feels they would be bigger had everything been on the line.
“I probably speak for a generation, it was like… trying to beg, borrow or steal a ticket for three months beforehand. Everyone spoke about it, everyone over breakfast spoke about it, it took over fellas’ daily lives in Tipperary and Cork and the other Munster counties. And you knew that your season was on the line and everything was poured in for that effort.
“The atmosphere, the crowds, it was bumper-to-bumper. It saddens me to watch Munster championship games and see empty terraces, it doesn’t look right, it is just not right. Just doesn’t look right for me, having grown up in that era. But I will just have to get used to it, it is what it is.
It is like me ditching my old Nokia phone, I prefer that to the smartphone. But if anyone sees you with a Nokia phone sees you as a dinosaur, so you have to move on.
“In my head, I am going to have to move on. So, I would prefer the old format but having said that, players would prefer this format because you are guaranteed X amount of games, whereas before you could pour everything into one game and that could be your season over. But I thought because of that, one bite of the cherry, there was more meaning to it.”
He believes reaching the Munster final on July 1 will be more of a relief to the two teams than them seeing it as an achievement.
“Getting to a Munster final in years gone, there was a badge of honour in winning a Munster championship. It was a cup on display and back then, you knew to get to All-Ireland series, you needed to win Munster title, simple as. Whereas now you can still get to All-Ireland series without winning Munster. I think that has been the big difference in the mindset.
“The demands now to get to a Munster final, having played four tough games, and then to face into Munster final, you could be crocked by the time that comes.”
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