Rising costs may push 'weak' counties out of league equation
THE GAA are considering a radical new plan that would signal the end of the National Leagues for several of the 'weaker' hurling counties.
The creation of a 'fifth province', that would see some Division 3 and 4 sides compete in regional club competitions in place of the National League, is being considered to help cut the hefty costs involved in a league campaign.
GAA director-general Paraic Duffy has already questioned the value of the league to those counties, who can spend around €100,000 per annum on training costs, and part of the plan discussed at a hurling development meeting in August includes the reinvesting of those resources in clubs and facilities.
However, with league fixtures already in place for next year, it's unlikely that the plan will come into force until 2012 at the earliest, though hurling development coordinator Paudie Butler warned against any move that could damage the game.
"The county boards are certainly talking to Croke Park on a serious level about what they will do because they are saying the costs are too high if they have an overnight stay," said Butler. "They have to look at finances, we under-stand that, but I don't hear anyone talking about this in football, so we have to be careful that hurling isn't shoved back again.
"Hurling people won't take another setback. They don't want to be tricked into something that is just cost-saving for football."
Butler is set to step down from his position at next April's Congress after five years and admitted that the withdrawal of the National Leagues could undo the recent gains made by hurling.
The move would dramatically cut the playing season for hurling's lesser lights.