Martin Breheny: Restructure of Munster draw is an affront to equality
IT'S a special weekend for Munster hurling, but a depressing time for two-thirds of the province, who have been told that nine words in the rule books outweighs natural justice, fairness and equality.
An attempt to revisit the bizarre decision to arrange next year's football draw so that Cork and Kerry cannot meet until the final, was ruled 'out of order' at a meeting on Thursday night.
A sub-section of a rule on competitions which states that "alterations may be considered only on an annual basis" was invoked to prevent a discussion about the decision taken two weeks earlier by the council to seed Cork and Kerry directly into the semi-finals, where they will be kept apart.
A revolt by outraged players from Clare, Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford led to their county boards seeking an emergency meeting to reconsider the decision, but Munster Council chairman, Robert Frost (Clare) ruled out any discussion on the substantive issue, citing the aforementioned rule.
The upshot is that Kerry and Cork, the rich, powerful elite of Munster football, have been handed more wealth at the expense of their poorer relations. The decision to restructure the draw so that the 'Big Two' are kept apart is an insult to fairness, an affront to equality and another example of how a two-tier system still applies.
The four so-called weaker counties should have been far more alert to what was being proposed. Now, their players are being treated as disposables in the pursuit of ensuring that Cork and Kerry meet in the final. It means that Cork and Kerry can reach the decider by winning one game against Division 3 or 4 opponents. The winners will qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the losers for Round 4 qualifiers. It's unfair to every other county in Munster and beyond.
Leinster operate a limited seeding system (semi-finalists avoid the first round the following year), but it's of no great consequence. Connacht and Ulster use an open draw. Mayo, Galway and Roscommon, who between them have won 96pc of the Connacht titles, were on the same side of the draw this year; Donegal and Tyrone, the two most successful sides in Ulster in recent years, met in the quarter-final last May, yet Cork and Kerry are to be given privileged positions in Munster.
That has implications beyond Munster, as it gives Cork and Kerry advantages in the All-Ireland race. There is nothing Croke Park can do about it at present because provincial councils are autonomous bodies when it comes to running their championships.
That has got to change. Munster's decision calls for other provinces, or Central Council, to propose a rule changes so that all draw formats have to be approved by Croke Park.