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McGrath joins calls for format change to hurling league

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Waterford manager Derek McGrath feels a return to two more evenly balanced Division 1 groups of six would be better

Waterford manager Derek McGrath feels a return to two more evenly balanced Division 1 groups of six would be better

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Waterford manager Derek McGrath feels a return to two more evenly balanced Division 1 groups of six would be better

Waterford hurling manager Derek McGrath has backed calls made by his Tipperary counterpart Eamon O'Shea for a change in the structure of the league.

O'Shea has been highlighting the demands throughout the campaign and spoke loudly in Tullamore after his side's quarter-final win over Offaly when he suggested a serious re-think was required because the format was so "tough".

The concentration of games in such a short period of time is too much and McGrath has echoed those views, suggesting a less pressurised environment to prepare teams.

McGrath feels a return to two more evenly balanced Division 1 groups of six would be better.

"I think it would allow for less pressure, in terms of going up or down, and allow for the development of teams," he said.

"So I would go back (to two divisions of six balanced in terms of strength). And that's not based on us going up or not. That's my honest opinion.

"Like going for the job last year, if it was one group of eight, or two of six (pre-2013 format), that would have reduced the pressure, eased the approach.

"Your approach can filter down to the lads if you feel under pressure to stay in 1A. And that will be the case for us again in 2016 when we feel we'll have three or four young fellas to come in."

Counties have just finished a cycle of six games in seven weeks and while the competitiveness of most games has been a feature, the toll on players has been highlighted by a number of managers.

The presence of the last two All-Ireland champions, Clare and Kilkenny, in a relegation play-off last weekend serves to underline just how competitive it is.

The 2013 and 2014 leagues thrived under the current format with the final last year among the best games of recent times.

There has also been a significant revenue spin off, with an increase of 76pc in gate receipts recorded.

When the Hurling Review Committee released their findings in early January they made a recommendation to the Central Competition Controls Committee (CCCC) to explore the option of an eight-team Division 1 again.

They also admitted looking closely at two seven-team groups in a Divisions 1 that would give parity between home and away games.

Under that format each county would receive a bye on one weekend, but it was pointed out that the county with a bye on the last weekend could be at a disadvantage.

Only 28pc of those surveyed by the HRC were in favour of retaining the current Division 1A/1B system, with 61pc favouring a return to eight teams. That would lead to two more group games, but could reduce the pressure somewhat.

CCCC are due to review current structure of the league at the end of next season's competition.

Irish Independent