Saturday 24 June 2017

Martin Breheny: No point cribbing about hurling league unless counties unite in what they want

Limerick boss John Kiely hit out at the uncertainty over the structure of the hurling leagues. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Limerick boss John Kiely hit out at the uncertainty over the structure of the hurling leagues. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Good old Aesop was right. Remember his tale of the lark in the corn that featured in school books many years ago?

The famous Greek storyteller used fables to make his point and, in this case, he wanted to show that if something needs to be done, it's best to tackle it yourself.

When scared young larks reported to their mother that they overheard the farmer telling his son to summon friends and neighbours to cut the corn, she told them there was no need to flee the nest.

The pattern was repeated for a few days, the farmer widening the circle of intended harvesters, the fledglings growing increasingly terrified and the mother calmly reassuring them there was nothing to worry about.

exasperated Then, the youngsters reported that they heard the exasperated farmer telling his son that they themselves would start cutting the corn the following morning.

"Now it's time to be off indeed - the farmer will do the work himself and is not relying on others," said Mother Lark.

I'm reminded of that every time I hear complaints from counties/managers/players about how GAA competitions are structured.

It's topical again after Offaly, who won only one of five games in 1B of the Allianz hurling League, got the same reward as Tipperary, who topped 1A. In fact, Offaly fared better, landing home advantage in the toss for venue.

The lack of logic or fairness in allowing the same number of teams from 1B as 1A into the knockout stages has been evident since it was first introduced in 2014 but there are no plans for a review.

Why? Central Council, where every county is represented, agreed two years ago that they would be no adjustment for at least three years. Apparently, prior notice of proposed changes would also have to be given to counties before the start of this year's campaign so that they knew exactly what they were playing for.

That's bizarre. Surely, the aim of every county is to finish as high as possible in their group so that even if changes were introduced, they would be based on the best endeavours from this season?

New Limerick manager John Kiely said on Sunday that the GAA should have "come out and made a statement during the week as to whether it (league restructuring) was or wasn't (going to happen)".

"It has been mentioned in every forum, every newspaper. Why couldn't they come out and just confirm it and let people know what they were actually playing for?" he said.

How that would have changed the Limerick-Galway game is a moot point but that's not really the issue. Limerick have been unhappy with the league format for quite some time, their mood further darkened by being unable to get into 1A in six attempts.

And if the league reverted to an eight-team Division 1 next season, they would miss out again after finishing third in 1B. Granted, the league system may be flawed but it's hardly a coincidence that Limerick have remained outside the top tier for so long.

If counties want change in league or championship, then they need to drive it themselves. And if inter-county players want change, they have an avenue under the well-resourced full-time auspices of the GPA. What does the GPA think of the current hurling league? Since they haven't complained, we can only assume they are happy enough with it.

Football's 'Super 8' was opposed by the GPA, albeit so late that it could not have influenced county boards on how they mandated Congress delegates. And where was the GPA's own plan? They put forward a proposal two years ago, which was rejected by Central Council. Surely, they had a Plan B. And if that failed, why not offer Plan C, D etc.

The only way to get change is to keep coming up with ideas, driving them relentlessly for as long as it takes. Instead, county boards, players and managers usually only react to what others suggest. Either that or they complain when they are directly affected.

If counties are unhappy with the hurling league, do something about it. They were, the ones who backed it originally so they can also band together to throw it out. Don't wait for your neighbours to act. If Mother Lark had done that, she would have been left with a nestful of dead chicks.

Irish Independent

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