Hurling league format not fair, warns O'Shea
JusT two points may have divided the six teams in the most competitive top-flight hurling league campaign for some time but that still hasn't stemmed strong opinion emerging for yet more structural change.
After topping Division 1A, against his own expectations, Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea has ventured that the division is too tight and that the prospect of Clare or Cork dropping down is not right. He has also proposed concluding the league in the same manner as the Fitzgibbon Cup, with semi-finals and a final over the same weekend at one venue.
O'Shea would like a Division 1 that contains 10 teams and offers an opportunity to use big squads for games that take place week after week. Only then, he believes, will hurling have a true league where relegation doesn't haunt teams who win such a big percentage of their games. Both Cork and Clare won 40pc (two out of five) of their league games but now face the drop.
"Personally, I'd prefer to see 10 teams in the league. If you look at the statistics you can be relegated winning 40pc of your games. So if you took that into a Premier League, let's say, that points level is up to 50," said O'Shea.
"No team has ever been relegated in the Premier League with more than 42 points at the end of a season.
"Start it in February and just run it through, forget your football Sundays. We all have big squads. The likes of Dublin, Limerick, Offaly and Wexford, I'd like to be playing those teams as well. I'd like to see two up and two down and we get the next two teams up and we try to raise standards. I think it is too tight.
"I think we need to be a bit more imaginative about this," said O'Shea. "You could have a 'super four' competition over a weekend. Like the Fitzgibbon Cup. Have a festival of hurling. Get a stadium with 30,000 or 40,000 people and link it to something else."
O'Shea did accept, however, that playing tough games week after week may have cost Clare on Sunday.
"I think we're going to have to think about the way we structure the league because we're going Sunday after Sunday, you don't have time to do much training, you don't have time to recover.
"That's a young Clare team that were working really hard to get up a level and I think maybe it took its toll five Sundays in a row. That's not for me to comment on any other team. I think the way we run the league we need to give players time, especially amateur players, time to recover."
The hurling league is undoubtedly the most tampered-with competition in Irish sport with 10 changes across a 15-year period since the decision was taken to run it off in the same calendar year.
Only last December Central Council approved the latest change to add in quarter-finals for the 2014 competition.
That would at least eliminate the situation that Waterford find themselves in for the second successive year, with no competitive games in the months of April and May.
Tipperary centre-back Conor O'Mahony is not in agreement with his manager over the need for more change, however. "It's going down to the last game, that's what spectators wanted and players wanted," he said.
"Nobody knew until five o'clock who was going to be in the semi-finals or in the relegation play-off so I think that's what everybody wanted. I see no problems with it."
Tipperary have recovered impressively from their opening-night defeat to Cork and looked really sharp in the final weeks, especially against Galway and Clare when they played close to full-strength teams.
Darren Gleeson has emerged as a really significant challenge to Brendan Cummins for the goalkeeping position, while Brendan Maher and Lar Corbett have replenished their confidence and Shane Bourke and John O'Dwyer have emerged as real attacking options.