Monday 18 December 2017

Munster proposal sows seeds of unrest

DAMIAN LAWLOR

OPPOSITION to a return to a seeded football championship is growing in Munster with a leading player and a high-level administrator adding their voices to the campaign.

Waterford's Gary Hurney and Tipperary Football Board secretary Michael Power both believe it would be a mistake to go back to a system which keeps Cork and Kerry on opposite sides of the draw.

The province's six county boards have been told to discuss the prospect of seeding the 2013 championship at their next scheduled meetings before a vote is taken in August or September.

Hurney, widely regarded as one of the most talented footballers in the game, says it will be a disaster if the championship returns to a seeding structure.

"I would just hate to see it being seeded," he said. "Last October, I sat down and watched the championship draw. We drew Limerick. If we beat them it was Clare in the semi-final and a chance of reaching the Holy Grail, a Munster final, something I've always wanted.

"From the night of the draw we had a spring in our step. I'll be honest -- that draw is what brought me back to play again this year," says the 31-year-old who has starred for Munster Railway Cup teams over the past decade.

"I would say some players from Tipp, Limerick, Clare and Waterford will wait until the 2013 draw is made to make a decision on their futures. If they have a glimmer of light it could be the factor that makes them decide to go back. Don't get me wrong, we train as hard to play the big two, Cork and Kerry, but it's always at the back of your mind that it's going to be an uphill battle to win."

The the matter is again up for discussion because of budgetary concerns. The Munster Council expects to suffer a massive financial loss with Cork beating Kerry in this year's semi-final.

Last year, the Munster final attracted 41,000 people to Killarney but provincial bosses are now extremely worried that attendance figures for this year's decider between Cork and Clare will be well down.

A poor turnout could have knock-on effects in terms of funding for all six counties down the line.

The seeded draw has long been a contentious issue in Munster football. After sustained campaigning by Clare administrator Noel Walsh, it was eventually abolished in 1991. Just a year later, the Banner made history by clinching the provincial title.

The controversial structure returned once more in 2007, prompting five Limerick footballers to decline an invitation to play for Munster in the Railway Cup in direct response to its return. It only lasted two years that time.

"The notion just seems to be put back on the table every few years," says Power.

"Speaking from a personal point of view, I just couldn't agree with the seeded draw. And from a Tipperary perspective it would be a serious setback considering the amount of progress we're making at underage level. We'd definitely see that progress stunted if you had to play Kerry or Cork every year to reach a final.

"I think if the seeded draw proposal got support then it would be sending out the wrong message. If we're going down that road, I'd call for an open championship entirely, across all the four provinces. If people are that worried about finances perhaps they need to look at reducing ticket prices."

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