Friday 19 July 2019

Laois captain Joe Phelan calls on Leinster council to expand provincial hurling series to six teams

Laois captain Joe Phelan poses with the Liam MacCarthy Cup during the launch of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship series at King's John's Castle in Limerick. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Laois captain Joe Phelan poses with the Liam MacCarthy Cup during the launch of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship series at King's John's Castle in Limerick. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Laois vice-captain Joe Phelan has called on the Leinster GAA Council to allow a sixth county to compete in their provincial hurling series.

"It makes sense to expand the Leinster hurling championship to six teams," suggested the Camross clubman, who played a key role in Laois' historic victory over Dublin which secured them a place in next Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final against Tipperary.

"What happens if we beat Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny or Wexford next summer. They would then be due to go down to Joe McDonagh Cup.

"There would be absolute war and the rules would be changed. It should be changed now. 

"Dublin had a three-week break before they played us. So there is definite room for an extra team and the new set-up would give ourselves and the likes of  Carlow, Westmeath or eventually Offaly a chance to play at the top level consistently.

"I suppose Leinster were trying to copy the Munster format with their five teams but it doesn't suit Leinster. I think the more teams that compete in the top tier championship the better.

"The game against Dublin was the most physical match I played this year. The hits and exchanges were unbelievable. To be able to do that every day we play in the championship would be fantastic.

"We train as hard as any of the top teams. We want to test ourselves against the best, so hopefully the rule will be changed as soon as possible."

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The Laois squad return to training tonight ahead of their showdown in Croke Park against beaten Munster finalists Tipperary on Sunday.

"I haven't really thought too much about Tipperary yet to be honest. We have training tonight and hopefully we will get re-focussed there.

"It's the second game on a Sunday. It is the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland. It is huge for Laois to be in the last six in the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup.

"Everybody will have their eyes on us. We just want to go out and do ourselves justice."

Laois will be playing in the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the first time since 1979. But regardless of the outcome, the 2020 season will be an exciting one for Eddie Brennan's team.

Due to their victory in the McDonagh Cup they are guaranteed a place in the 2020 Leinster championship but they will also feature in the new-look two-section Division 1 of the hurling league next spring having finished fourth in Division 1B this spring.

"It will be great going to Nowlan Park (to play Kilkenny) and places like that where we will be meeting all the top teams. We have a very young panel and hopefully they will be around for a good few years to come," said Phelan speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland hurling series.

Interestingly Kilkenny failed to sent a representative to the launch whereas the other five teams left in the race had a player at the function which was hosted by the Mungret St Paul's GAA club on the outskirts of Limerick city.

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