Limerick may boycott league in protest over revised format
Published 04/10/2011 | 05:00
The dispute over the structure of the 2012 hurling league will not now be resolved until November, with Limerick raising the spectre of withdrawal if an eight-team division is not restored.
The eight Division 1 counties, who want the top flight to revert to one eight-team division instead of two divisions of six, have all submitted the same motion calling for the competition to revert to its 2011 structure.
This follows a Central Council vote in August to broaden Division 1 to 12 teams and then split that 12 into two divisions of six according to strength.
That would leave Dublin, Kilkenny, Waterford, Galway, Tipperary and Cork in one division, with Limerick, Wexford, Clare, Offaly, Laois and Antrim in the division below.
It had been anticipated that a Central Council meeting would be held in October to allow for a vote on the motions submitted by the eight counties. But the November 12 meeting will now decide what shape the 2012 league will take.
Waiting until November will leave counties in the dark for longer as they start to make preparations for the 2012 season.
Limerick remain the most vocal of the eight counties after winning Division 2 and earning promotion last May.
The county's chief executive, Mike O'Riordan, has stressed that they will reserve the right to withdraw from the competition if they are forced to play in a six-group division.
"It was discussed at our last county board meeting where clearance was given to pursue change and, if that was not forthcoming, withdraw from the league," he said.
"We participated in the 2011 Division 2 league in good faith. It clearly states in the rules that if we won Division 2 we would be promoted. That's not the case now.
"If that change was brought in for 2013, with a year's notice, then we wouldn't have had an issue. At least then everyone would know what was at stake. Limerick people see this as an awful kick in the teeth."
Cork, Kilkenny, Waterford, Galway, Tipperary, Dublin and Wexford have also submitted motions -- it needs two-thirds support for change.
A possible compromise would be to adopt the Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC) motion to last August's meeting whereby Division 1 would operate with two groups of six but quarter-finals and semi-final would then link the two groups.
This would provide the extra games that the eight counties are fearful of losing -- cutting games would compress their revenue stream.
O'Riordan said Limerick will not be entertaining six-group divisions under any circumstances.
GAA director general Paraic Duffy touched on the issue at yesterday's AIB club launch in Dublin and said he could understand grievances some of the counties might have.
"The only point I'd make -- and I personally don't have a strong view on this -- is there were three proposals put forward at the meeting.
"The one that was accepted came from the hurling work group chaired by Liam O'Neill. The problem with hurling that everybody accepts is that there are eight, maybe 10, strong teams.
"The next two teams are a problem so they were trying to accommodate them, so they would not be competing against the Corks and the Tipperarys or Kilkennys but at a level slightly below that.
"But the eight counties wanted to play against each other so it's very hard to reconcile those issues.
"However, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of making some kind of compromise yet. There's still the possibility."
The CCCC will now bring two sets of fixtures lists to the November 12 meeting and await the outcome of the vote before spiking one.
Duffy admitted the hold up could delay the publication of the master fixtures guide, which in turn allows counties to plan their club fixtures.
"We can work with the football ones for the moment," he said.
"It just means that you're giving counties a short space to come back and say when there are games or not."
"It'll probably be a week after the meeting so I think it can be done but it's not the ideal.
"The championship draws are on this Thursday and then the provincial councils go off and make their fixtures on the basis of what games the TV stations want to cover. It delays the process and it makes it very tight."
Kilkenny's All-Ireland winning hurling captain Brian Hogan has challenged the make-up of committees who decide on such structures and feels inter-county managers should have a far greater say in the way the games are run.
"I think the thing of having guys up in headquarters in suits coming up with this is a load of rubbish," Hogan said.
"The guys who should be making the decisions are the inter-county guys like Brian (Cody) and other managers who are involved in the hurling and know exactly what's required. They know what's best for the game."
However, the accepted format in August came from a hurling work group that includes past players who were invited by the GAA's management to submit a proposal.