Game changer for hurling will have a major impact in Cork

Game changer for hurling will have a major impact in Cork
Jerry O'Sullivan, Munster GAA Chairman, left, with Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail during a GAA Special Congress at Croke Park. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

TIME was when waking up the Monday morning after beating Tipperary in the Munster hurling championship made it a great start to the week.

Okay, the introduction of the back-door diluted its significance on the basis the other crowd hadn't gone away, but the feeling was still warm and welcome.

Last Saturday's decision to effectively turn the hurling championship into a league has altered the Munster landscape for the next three years and probably for ever.

“A great day for hurling and a great day for the GAA,” said Liam Mulvihill, the outgoing director general, who will step down once a successor is announced, probably next year.

Hopefully, this will return to haunt him in the same way other infamous predictions did, like Decca Records in 1962, when discussing the Beatles.

“We don't like their sound and guitar music is on the way out,” they said. Spot on, lads!

Or maybe like Newsweek, who predicted safaris in Vietnam would become popular holidays in the same decade. Doucha kid!

Saturday's result is a disaster for Munster hurling, as so eloquently put by Waterford chairman, PJ Ryan, when he said it would be 'one of the worst decisions in GAA history.'

The first question to be asked is why the need to interfere with the championship in the first instance? What was wrong with it? Answer, absolutely nothing.

Never before, in modern times anyway, has it been so competitive with all five counties, Cork, Tipp, Waterford, Clare and Limerick, genuinely believing they can win it in 2018.

Cork's victory this season was one of the greatest, defeating Tipp, Waterford and Clare along the way and should whet the appetite for next year. But will it?

Championship hurling is best served as straight knock-out. We can live with the second chance, but the prospect of another league simply dulls the senses.

We already have the Munster League, the season's warm-up competition, and the national league and now a third in the form of a round-robin pretending to be championship.

Cork played four games in the provincial league this year, five more in division one and will have four additional fixtures in 2018, making it 13 games in all.

The GAA can dress it up all it likes, but it's still a league not a championship. How supporters treat the new-look competition will be interesting.

You'd wonder how many of those non-Munster counties who voted in favour of Croke Park's proposal have ever been to Thurles to witness, first hand, the unique appeal of a Cork-Tipp encounter, for example.

Do they appreciate the near life-and-death nature of games between these fierce rivals and the importance of carrying on the tradition, which dates back centuries and is passed on from one generation to the next?

Probably not, because if they did they would understand the importance of leaving well alone and not meddling.

The Leinster championship is a completely different proposition even if Kilkenny's grip is loosening.

Wexford are coming and Dublin will have a shout, too, while parachuting Galway into the east has added to its appeal.

One way of changing the championship would be to have an open draw for the All-Ireland after Munster and Leinster are concluded, but don't hold your breath on that.

The players, according to the Gaelic Players Association, are generally in favour of the new format, though their motivation is a bit puzzling.

They claim it will improve the ratio of games to training, but wouldn't it be far simpler to reduce the number of training sessions and give everyone, especially their clubs, a break.

Of course, the elephant in the room is the impact it will have on clubs, particularly strong dual clubs, who also happen to supply players to county teams.

It's logical that if counties play more games then clubs will see less and less of their players in an era of an undefined club season even if that prospect becomes closer, according to reports.

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