'Round robin' anomaly could encourage counties to finish second
Published 11/11/2015 | 02:30
Leinster Council CEO Michael Reynolds has conceded that the province's 2016 senior hurling championship 'round robin' has thrown up an unusual situation but says there is no way around it.
Bizarrely, the reward for finishing second in the round robin section, featuring Carlow, Offaly, Westmeath and Kerry, is a quarter-final clash with Laois, whereas the top team takes on Galway.
Galway beat Laois by 20 points in this year's Leinster semi-final, before going on to reach the All-Ireland final. They are 7/4 second favourites behind Kilkenny to win next year's Leinster title, while Laois are 100/1.
Clearly, the round robin team that meets Laois has a better chance of reaching the semi-final, which makes it more attractive to finish second in the group.
It could lead to gamesmanship in the final series of round robin games as teams jockey to finish second and book what's perceived as the easier quarter-final game.
"It's the way the draw came out. You can't wait until after the round robin is over to complete a draw," said Reynolds.
Nonetheless, it seems strange that, on all known evidence, the prize for a second-placed finish is greater than for the winner.
Whatever the final placings, the two teams that emerge from the round robin will have home advantage against Galway and Laois respectively.
That is written into the regulations but it has now emerged that Galway's prospects of lining up any home game have been dashed - for 2016 at least.
They are unhappy over the continued reluctance of Leinster counties to cross the Shannon for a championship game.
Most of the counties have entered into home-and-away arrangements among themselves but will not extend it to include Galway, who have had to travel east for all their games since joining Leinster in 2009.
In a broadside at Leinster, a Galway submission to Croke Park on the championship last July claimed that "the financial contribution from Leinster Council does not adequately reflect the additional and incremental funds generated by the participation of Galway in the championship."
It's understood that Galway have written to Leinster counties, seeking discussions on 'home-and-away' arrangements but even if agreement is reached, it won't apply in next year's championship, the venues for which will be decided tonight.
Galway are also unhappy over the refusal to allow their minors and U-21s compete in the Leinster Championship, despite a formal request for inclusion last year.