independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Radical calls for round-robin hurling revamp

BRING hurling back to the people – that's the mantra from a high-powered group who want a dramatic revamp of the Munster and Leinster senior championships.

The Hurling Development Work Group (HDWG), which was appointed by Liam O'Neill when he took over as GAA president last April, are proposing that the Munster and Leinster championships use a round-robin system to decide on the finalists.

Their proposal will be put before Central Council on Saturday and, if accepted, will be introduced in 2014. However, a counter proposal, devised by the Central Competitions Control Committee ( CCCC), is also on the agenda.

It calls for a reduction from 15 to 13 in the number of counties eligible to compete for the All-Ireland SHC by 2016.

Central Council were unable to decide between the proposals at a meeting in December.

HDWG's blueprint is by far the more radical, but chairman Tommy Lanigan (Kilkenny) believes it offers huge possibilities to enhance the promotion of hurling in the summer months.

"It would guarantee every county competing for the All-Ireland two home championship games every summer," said Lanigan.

"That would be a great promotion for hurling. As it is, several counties don't get the chance to stage even one home game, and many great players never get to play a championship game in their own county right through their careers.

"This proposal would change all that. As one county chairman said to me recently -- hurling has to be brought back to the people."

He accepts there will be opposition to using a round-robin system to decide on the Munster and Leinster finalists but says it's worth a try.

"Players and supporters would get more games locally in summer. Our plan also includes putting more structure on the system so as to accommodate clubs," said Lanigan.

"We need more balance between games and training at club and county level. Why have so much time between games and fill it up with training sessions? What purpose does it serve? The game is for playing, not training."

The new system would require the championship to start earlier but Lanigan believes that's feasible.

"All we're trying to do is promote hurling by taking it back to the people and spreading championship games around the country," said Lanigan.

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