GAA director general Paraic Duffy has hit back at managers' criticism of the Allianz Hurling League format, pointing out that it is set by the counties, not by Croke Park or any appointed committee.
"It's the counties' call. The format is decided on by Central Council where all counties are represented," said Duffy. "Every proposal is given to the counties in good time to consider them. It's up to every county to sound out opinion and delegate their Central Council to vote accordingly.
"Croke Park, or any committee, don't make rules or set competition structures. We go by what's decided on by Central Council."
Managers Eamon O'Shea (Tipperary) and John Allen (Limerick) led the criticism of the current format after the final round of divisional games on Sunday. O'Shea said the GAA needed "to be more imaginative", while Allen claimed the system was "marginalising too many counties".
The format will be tweaked again next year when quarter-finals will be introduced, featuring the top four finishers in Divisions 1A and 1B. It means that the fifth-placed county in the ultra-competitive 1A will be out of contention while fourth placed in the lower-grade 1B will qualify for the quarter-finals.
That anomaly will attract further criticism but Duffy (left) stressed that it was the counties who voted in the change. The Central Competitions Control Committee brought three options to Central Council last December. One suggested retaining the current format; the second offered a return to eight-county Divisions 1 and 2 while the third, which was accepted, proposed the addition of four quarter-finals to the existing structure.
"A majority of counties voted for quarter-finals," said Duffy. "They had two other choices but opted against them. It was well-signalled in advance what the choices were. It was done in good time so that everybody would know before the start of this year's league what next year's format would be."
The fact that managers regularly criticise decisions taken by Central Council suggests that there is very little consultation at county level when key calls are under review.
And since the current league format is under attack, it's highly likely that the addition of quarter-finals, which effectively bestows the same status on Division 1A and 1B, will cause controversy next year.
"That's what the majority of counties voted for. Our job is to implement it," said Duffy.
If the quarter-finals were in place this year the line-up would be as follows: Tipperary v Wexford; Kilkenny v Offaly; Galway v Dublin; Waterford v Limerick.