New Munster hurling format is necessary

New Munster hurling format is necessary
Conor O'Sullivan, Cork, in action against Patrick Maher, Tipperary. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

John Horgan

Hurling

THE curtain may well be about to come down on the Munster SHC as we know it.

In fact it’s a near certainty that the current structure will be replaced next season by a round robin series involving the five participants.

The same structure will apply in the Leinster SHC with each team guaranteed four games, two on home soil, two away.

The top two teams will contest the provincial final with the third team in each round-robin group qualifying for the All-Ireland quarter-finals where they will be joined by the Munster and Leinster losers The bottom two teams in each round-robin group will be eliminated from the championship.

The net effect from a Munster perspective is that there will be 11 games and that is compared to just four this season, Cork and Tipperary, the winners playing Waterford, Clare and Limerick with the winners of that tie meeting the winners of the Cork, Tipp and Waterford triumvirate in the final.

Tipperary’s Padraic Maher and Cork’s Stephen McDonnell. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Padraic Maher and Cork’s Stephen McDonnell. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

This brand new format is necessary the powers that be believe because with the new Super 8 plan with the SFC coming into force next season, the profile of the hurling championship would be lowered considerably.

As things currently stand, the Munster and Leinster Councils are supporting this new format and the proposals will be brought before a meeting of the Central Council next month to be followed by a Special Congress later in the year.

There would be little or no problem with a five team, Munster round robin format because only five teams are competing anyway.

It might be a different story in Leinster, however. Currently, you have five teams who are in the main draw, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin, Offaly and Galway.

Two more from a round robin series join them in the knock-out stages in the province.

If the new format comes to pass with five teams involved, one of the aforementioned who currently have an automatic place in the draw would drop out and be forced to to fight for their place.

That might not sit too easily.

Of course one problem would be solved in Leinster where Galway are concerned. They have never had a home game in that championship because the Leinster counties won’t agree to go to Pearse Stadium.

Now, with this new format, they won’t have a choice because Galway would be guaranteed two games in Salthill.

There is for and against this new proposal and initially, it might be a raging success.

You’d have Munster championship matches in Walsh Park, maybe Dungarvan and Cusack Park.

Tony Kelly takes on Dublin at Cusack Park. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Tony Kelly takes on Dublin at Cusack Park. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Could you imagine Cork and Waterford in Walsh Park on a sizzling Sunday in June.

You certainly would have a wonderful atmosphere in those type of grounds, grounds that currently cannot hold a senior hurling championship game.

There is a financial aspect to be considered too and in general attendances are down everywhere.

How many will be in Thurles next Sunday week, 25 to 28,000 max one thinks.

There is a lot of cost involved for fans going to big games these days and if you had four games, five if you reached the final there would be a huge financial outlay if you attended all the games.

Live TV is a big factor now and gone are the days when 50,000 plus attended provincial games.

A big crowd at Cork v Tipp in 2012. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
A big crowd at Cork v Tipp in 2012. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The extra games would certainly swell the coffers of the Councils and, to be fair, the Munster Council are very generous in handing out grants for various club projects etc.

Attendance figures for Leinster championship games, pre the final have been down considerably in recent times but we’ll say if Galway had Kilkenny and Wexford in Salthill the attendance levels would surely soar, initially anyway.

The traditionalists in Munster might not want this new round-robin format and, as they say, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

There will be the suggestion too that this new proposal is a knee-jerk reaction to the Super 8 in football and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the status quo.

What does the new proposal mean for club games and the club player?.

There’s an awful lot involved in this and it might not be as straightforward as it looks.

The general public, mindful of the financial outlay, might pick and choose their games and you could have repeats as well.

In fact you are assured of a dress rehearsal for the two provincial finals when the teams involved will have met already at the round robin stage.

The outcome will be very interesting.

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