MUNSTER Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan believes the new-look, round-robin series of games in the provincial SHC will be a huge success and that it will be well received in all the participating counties.
O’Sullivan told the Echo at the launch of the Munster hurling and football championships that on his travels around the province he could sense the anticipation levels increasing as the opening day, May 20th approaches.
“To be honest, I was very strongly in favour of the new format from day one.
“As anyone who is involved in the game of hurling knows, it needs promotion and it needs big games.
“The more that we get of them the better and I think that the recent National League has really whetted the appetite for hurling.
“There were some tremendous games in it although the prophets of doom were saying that the league would be a non-event because of the new format.
“But I believe now that most people have now come around to the idea of the new Round-Robin format and it’s my belief that week in, week out in the months of May and June we are in for some fantastic games of hurling that will have everybody talking about.
The former Cork County Board Chairman believes that the very level playing field where the five competing counties are concerned will add further to the appeal of the new innovation.
“Who in their sane mind would even attempt to predict the outright winner of the Munster SHC and the reality is, and I know it’s a cliche, but any of the five teams are capable of beating each other on any given day, you just couldn’t pick one over the other.’’
Cork will host two of the big games, playing Clare first and then followed by another home game on a Saturday night against Limerick and O’Sullivan believes those two games will bring the crowds flocking to the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“Yes, the game against Clare and the game against Limerick will be the first championship games of hurling involving Cork in their new stadium.
“It’s great for the players and the Cork supporters to have two home games, probably the first time ever and it will be same in Cusack Park for Clare, the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick and Tipp in Thurles.
“Unfortunately, for Waterford, they must travel for all their games because of the Walsh Park situation."
O’Sullivan believes that the margin for error in every game will be minimal because the stark reality of the new system decrees that come the end of it on June 17, two of the country’s leading counties will be finished hurling for the year.
“That is going to be the situation and as competitive as it is before, that will make it even more so.
“It’s going to be demanding for players, for management, for everybody. But I know from my own experience that players would rather be playing games than training and I believe the vast majority of players are really looking forward to it.
With the games coming thick and fast, there will be an extra burden on supporters where finance is concerned but the Munster Council chair believes that all the games are reasonably priced.
“I believe that for championship games of that nature, they are very reasonably priced, it’s incredible and you must add in that supporters will have two games at home and two away."
The games too, he believes, will be made more appealing by the fact that preceding them will be games in the minor championship between the same counties.
“I think that is the icing on the cake to be honest. I think that will be something a lot extra for both sets of supporters, they will want to see the young players of their counties and for those young players themselves it’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase their skills before their own supporters.’’
Turning to the Munster SFC, he believes that there is much to look forward to in that too, all the more so because of the recent rise in standards in Tipperary and in Clare.
“Without a doubt, gone are the days when you could pencil in a Cork and Kerry final.
“That has changed completely, Tipperary and Clare have made serious strides and Limerick, not recently, but they were there or thereabouts not that long ago.
“Waterford frightened the life out of Cork last season so you have a situation now that might not have existed before where nothing can be taken for granted in Munster anymore and I am sure Cork and Kerry are very aware of that."