The John Horgan: A knockout hurling championship might be only option 

The John Horgan: A knockout hurling championship might be only option 
Clare's Tony Kelly and Andrew Dunphy of Dublin in recent league action before it was suspended. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

WE are living in a time of great uncertainty where the sporting world is concerned.

At this moment in time and for the foreseeable future, major sporting competitions and events are under threat.

Big decisions will have to be taken by those in authority across the sporting landscape.

The GAA are one of those organisations and the Summer championships may have to be reviewed.

There has already been speculation about the format of the provincial hurling championships in Munster and Leinster.

The Round-Robin format introduced two years ago decrees that more games than ever are being played in both provinces.

If there was to be a continuation of the current health crisis might there be a need to revert back to the straight knockout format, thus limiting the number of games considerably.

That subject was broached last week with Cork star Patrick Horgan and he had some interesting observations 

"If they had to do that, there would be some serious games then “If that’s what they had to do, it would not be too bad.

“Even though fellas would like more than one game, if that’s what’s needed, it would not be too bad.

“The next few weeks will tell a lot and whether we can even train.

“And if we can’t, how long are we going to be allowed train for," said Horgan. 

Let’s hope that a scenario like that does not come to pass and that come the first week or two of May the worst will be over.

If it’s not then the straight knockout system might have to become an option.

The older generation, of course, will tell you that the straight knockout was better but those days are long gone and won’t be returning.

Okay, Cork and Tipp in Thurles in a straight knockout Munster championship game would be a huge thing.

Likewise, Limerick and Clare in the Gaelic Grounds or Waterford and Cork in Walsh Park.

But everything has changed in the past few years, the inter-county game is now almost professional in all but name and the amount of time and effort that’s put in on the training ground is immense Can you imagine all of that happening for just one game in the month of May, a game that if you lost the year was done.

No, we are not going back there but it just might happen on a once off in the next couple of months if the current health situation does not get better.

That would be a huge pity, of course, because the Munster championship this year is richer in promise than ever before.

Five teams going into battle against each other and all five having a realistic chance of being one of the three teams that will emerge from the province.

And that is the only priority now for all five.

Winning the Munster championship in the past was a major achievement and it still is but with only three teams having their summer extended and two being on the outside looking in, you just have to prioritise.

Winning Munster or Leinster does, of course, give you a pass into the All-Ireland semi-final rather than having to go down the qualifying route but that hasn’t worked out too well for Munster winners in recent times.

Cork failed to reach the All-Ireland final a few times as Munster champions, it was the same with Limerick last year.

The problem with winning the provincial title is that you then have an extended wait before you play again while the other counties are playing one or maybe more games.

A five-week wait for an All-Ireland semi-final can prove to be a considerable negative and recent history suggests that.

So, let’s hope that all will be well by May and the provincial hurling championships are not affected, who will be the three to emerge from Munster.

Well, at this point in time, Limerick must be in pole position with Tipperary just behind them.

Galway's Conor Whelan scores a goal despite Tipperary's Brian Hogan and Pádraic Maher. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon
Galway's Conor Whelan scores a goal despite Tipperary's Brian Hogan and Pádraic Maher. Picture: INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

The latter, of course, did not make the knockout stages of the NHL but it seemed that was never a priority of team boss Liam Sheedy.

He still got five games out of the competition, got to use a lot of new players and see if they had something to offer that could be used further down the line.

That leaves us with Cork, Clare and Waterford in a right dogfight for the third spot.

Clare and Waterford have new management teams, led by Brian Lohan and Liam Cahill respectively and there has certainly been a bounce since they came on board.

Both have made the knockout stages of the league, Clare through to a semi-final.

Cork did not and their league campaign was very much a bit of a hit and miss, in other words, they were too inconsistent.

Of course, that’s been a problem now under various managers, very good one day, poor the next one.

Kieran Kingston’s priority will be to rid the team of that inconsistency over the coming weeks on the training ground.

Cork need to get a good start against Limerick in May, playing at home that’s going to be a vital game. They have Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh too and another win might be a must there too.

If you lose one of your home games you will have to win one of your away ones. Cork lost to Tipp last year in their opener but got back on track a week later in the Gaelic Grounds.

That might not be the case this year so home rule is vital.

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