The structure of the hurling league is flawed as there is no need for quarter-finals

The structure of the hurling league is flawed as there is no need for quarter-finals
Clare's Tony Kelly and Colin Ryan of Limerick. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

THE only certainty about the hurling league at this point in time is that All-Ireland champions Limerick will play Laois in one of the four quarter-finals.

The pairings for the other three will not be known until later until the final round of group games are played in Division 1A.

This, of course, is the final year of the current format in the hurling league and you could say good riddance to it.

Firstly, there should never have been the need for quarter-finals anyway, semi-finals maybe or perhaps the right way to do it was to have the top two teams contest the finals in all divisions, just as it is in football, the top two in all four groups meeting in the final.

The current situation only serves to highlight the inequity of the current structure.

Take Laois, and it’s no fault of theirs, but they have played their five group games in Division 1B and have just won one game.

That was against Offaly and, to be fair, they ran Dublin to just two points last Sunday.

Laois' Mark Kavanagh and Pat Camon of Offaly. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Laois' Mark Kavanagh and Pat Camon of Offaly. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Yet they still find themselves in the quarter-finals of the competition where they will meet the country’s number one team, Limerick, as aforementioned.

Based on how things currently stand, they are through but two from Kilkenny, Cork and Tipp will not be in the last eight.

That may change after Cork and Tipp and Wexford and Kilkenny next weekend but two major hurling counties will not be in the last eight and Laois will and that’s not being disrespectful to them and Eddie Brennan's efforts up there to improve their lot.

And it will be a special occasion for them when they host the All-Ireland champions in that quarter-final.

Of course, this is the first occurrence of a situation like this, in 2017 Offaly reached the last eight despite winning one game in Division 1B against Kerry.

Clare didn’t make it that year despite defeating Kilkenny and Dublin.

That will not happen anymore now because the structure of the secondary competition will be overhauled for 2020 On the subject of Offaly, it’s sad to see their current plight and how far down the rankings they have dropped.

There was some light, however, in their tunnel when they travelled to Dr Cullen Park and came away with the win against Carlow.

Now one might say that’s no big deal because Carlow are not exactly one of the country’s leading hurling lights.

But they have progressed very well under Colm Bonner’s managerial tutelage and they were expected to be too strong at home for an Offaly team that could not buy a win prior to that.

But the Faithful County prevailed and now they are going to have home advantage the next day when the two counties meet again to decide who goes down to Division 2A next season.

Offaly, according to their boss Kevin Martin are fighting for survival and any genuine hurling person will hope that they don’t drop down to a place where they will be in among counties where hurling is well down the list of their priorities.

Glancing through the lower divisions of the hurling league, some of the stats don’t make pretty reading.

These teams are doing their best to keep the head above water but clearly, it’s a struggle.

Take our friends from across the water, London and Warwickshire. London have played four games in 2A and lost all four with a minus 38 points.

It gets worse for Warwickshire, they are 2B with five losses from five and they are minus 80 points.

It’s a sort of similar story for a lot of other teams, Leitrim, Louth and Cavan. It makes you wonder, is there anything at all being done by headquarters to promote the game in these places.

What are the attendance figures like at these games or does anybody really care?

The entire hurling league needs restructuring and it will done for next season but, of course, at the end of the day, no county is going to lose sleep now because of how the league went.

The new provincial structure of the championship ensures that and that’s now the only show in town.

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