SO the face of the All-Ireland SHC looks set to change quite dramatically in a few weeks time when a Special Congress will convene to discuss various proposals.
The status quo of the provincial championships and the qualifiers looks set to change although to what extent remains to be seen.
There are varying opinions across the country on these proposals and quite a few are of the opinion that there should be no change at all. And one certainly understands that viewpoint with the theory behind it being, why fix it if it’s not broke.
However, the powers that be in Croke Park and elsewhere believe that hurling’s elite status might be diminished because of the introduction of the Super 8s to Gaelic Football. The feeling is that it would be a negative for hurling because of the extra amount of football games.
Does anybody really believe that because one game of hurling is, nine times out of 10, going to be better than three or four football matches, all the more so in this day and age because of how the big ball game is being played now with all its defensive systems, back-passing and lateral passing.
For instance, compare this year’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Galway and Tipperary to the Tyrone-Dublin football semi-final.
One of the proposals going before the Special Congress in a few weeks is the introduction of a round robin series to the Munster and Leinster championships.
This is coming at a time when both provincial championships were never as competitive with all five Munster counties in a line together seeking the big prize.
Leinster is getting more competitive too with the resurgence of Wexford and with Kilkenny coming back into the pack. Galway’s emergence from the wilderness is a huge plus and Dublin, with a new manager and backroom team, will be better in the future.
Whatever about the Leinster championship, the Munster championship in its present status is a sacred competition and should not be touched.
And it is only right and proper that Cork’s proposal to the Congress which seeks to protect that status should be given the utmost of consideration and adopted.
The Cork County Board want to replicate the Super 8 in football with a similar format for hurling and there is a lot more merit in that if there is going to be change.
Initially, there might have been merit to the round-robin idea in Munster but on closer examination, it has the potential to contain a lot of games that might be a very hard sell to the public.
You could have the situation too of some games that would be meaningless depending on how other games went, in other words, dead rubbers.
What would the attendance levels be at some of those games? And what if we got a Cork-Waterford game in Walsh Park where everything was on the line?
How would that venue in its present guise cope?
There could be dead rubbers too in replicating the Super 8 in football but there might be a lot less and maybe none at all. Whatever comes out of this Special Congress, we can expect change.
There is a determination now in Croke Park for that but the message from the provincial councils must be loud and clear, leave our hurling championships alone.
And that’s why the Cork proposal, no doubt very well thought out, makes a lot more sense than the one put forward by Central Council. Of course at the end of the day the greatest consideration in all of this should be for how it will affect the club game.
Outside of Cork, it’s fractured enough as it is and might get a whole lot worse going forward. We are sick and tired of hearing from year to year how important the club scene is and the need to protect it and better it.
Yet when these inter-county proposals are being thought out how much consideration is given to the club game. All of this gives added importance to the Special Congress coming up.
The view from this column is that the status quo should prevail. Is there that much wrong with the provincial championships and the qualifiers that follow?
Because at the end of the day there will be no change on how the race for the All-Ireland pans out. The same counties will dominate the landscape and the rest will stay on the outside looking in.