Wednesday 19 June 2019

Bonnar wants six-team Leinster Championship

Colm Bonnar, here giving a teamtalk, believes his Carlow players would benefit from more top-tier championship competition. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Colm Bonnar, here giving a teamtalk, believes his Carlow players would benefit from more top-tier championship competition. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Carlow hurling boss Colm Bonnar has called on GAA chiefs to expand the Leinster SHC from five to six teams to help give weaker counties "genuine hope" of cementing a place at hurling's top table.

Carlow - who won the Christy Ring and Joe McDonagh Cups in successive years before competing for the Liam MacCarthy this season - were largely competitive in their four provincial games and gained plaudits in many quarters for their positive signs of progression.

However, after four successive defeats they will head back to the McDonagh Cup for 2020 with Bonnar questioning the logic of relegation having proven themselves capable of causing top-tier counties trouble.

"When teams might have dominated us in lower tiers, they wouldn't hurt you or dominate you as much whereas if you make a mistake at this level, they capitalise on it. They're so clinical," Bonnar said.

"That's the real problem, you can't learn from these games until you play them. When you do, you learn very fast. We played four games in five weeks so you're not getting too much time to cope.

"It's only when you sit back and the players look back on their own game and kind of say, 'What do you I need to work on next year if I want to compete against these same lads?'

"It's that knowledge that if you've been there and if they're going to be our foe again next year, they're actually going to do a bit more whereas if they drop down, where do you put your learnings?"

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Bonnar is mulling over his future after three successful years with the Barrowsiders but the Tipperary native is adamant that adding an extra county to the mix in Leinster is beneficial to all competing counties, particularly those trying to climb the ladder and make a mark.

"You need to go down and play the teams in front of you, the rule was there and that's how we got up. Whoever wins the Joe McDonagh will get the same opportunity and will be under the same pressure as we were," the two-time Tipperary All-Ireland winner said.

"The law of averages are that they could be coming back down and we might be winning again and coming up, it's not helpful to anyone and there's nothing wrong with having a six-team championship.

"What's the harm of bringing a Leinster winner of the Joe McDonagh up and every team plays each week. They still have a weekend off and Kilkenny, Wexford, Galway and Dublin won't be too worried about another team coming up.

"It's a chance for them to get another championship match in for some other players that might not be getting in and it gives the team that's coming up genuine hope.

"They'll think, 'If Carlow are still there, there's our target, we'll learn from the three or four games and try and beat Carlow and put them down'. So it gives you a chance to stay up there and learn your trade and keep it going.

"It's not going to take much, it's only the stroke of a pen, and before you know it's six weeks to play your five games and I think it's something that they should look at, but we don't make the rules."

Interestingly, while Carlow suffer relegation from Leinster after finishing bottom without a win, Waterford do not suffer the same fate having been embarrassed in Munster with four defeats and a scoring average of -52, compared with Carlow's -47.

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