Expand top tier to include eight deserving teams
Published 20/04/2016 | 02:30
If proof were needed of the unnatural divide between counties in the top two tiers of the Allianz Hurling League, it has been provided by the tables over two seasons.
Waterford won the outright title as 1B winners last year and Clare have qualified for this year's final via the same route.
Waterford beat 1A trio Galway, Tipperary and Cork last year while Clare have seen off Tipperary and Kilkenny this season.
In addition, Limerick, 1B runners-up, beat Dublin (third-placed in 1A) in the quarter-final, yet must campaign in the lower group again in 2017.
It's clear that there are eight teams of broadly even standard at the top end, yet there's a stubborn insistence on maintaining two groups of six.
Next year, Galway will replace Clare in Division 1B, where it's likely that the promotion slot will be between themselves and luckless Limerick, who have been trapped outside the top tier since 2010.
That's deeply frustrating for TJ Ryan and his squad and serves no purpose.
It wouldn't be remotely elitist to re-configure the divisions to lead off with an eight-strong top tier, which would currently comprise Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Dublin, Kilkenny and Galway.
Results over recent years clearly show that the top end of 1B is as good as 1A so why not use that to provide more top-quality games?
This year's final will be between the counties which topped 1B over two seasons, proving how easily they adapted to the bigger demands as they arose.
And in an example of how 1B doesn't necessarily damage Championship health, Cork (2014) won the Munster title after being in the second tier.