O'Grady fears new format will spell bad news for championship
When Donal O'Grady throws his eye across what is coming down the track for hurling in 2018, he sees that all has changed, though not necessarily for the better.
With more games in a smaller window, something has to give. And the former Cork All-Ireland-winning manager reckons the standard of championship hurling will slip as a result of the compacted schedule.
He fears that players just won't be able to whip up the fury associated with championship hurling with the current timetable and believes that hurling would have been better served by something along the lines of what football will introduce with the Super 8s.
"I think the championship will suffer," he said. "I don't think you'll have the same cut and thrust. You will in the first game but what happens the following weekend when fellas are tired? And the third when fellas are more tired? So it will be a difficult championship and I think the pace of the game will fall a bit.
"The first rounds of the championships are usually played about three-quarters pace, maybe full pace for ten minutes but (after that schedule) it will take time for players to get up to the pace you see in a quarter-final or semi-final - I think it will suffer."
O'Grady also foresees a change in approach to the league. The unforgiving nature of the six-team Division 1A saw counties operating at close to full capacity to retain their top-flight status while the strongest 1B teams also placed huge significance in getting promoted.
But, with so many games, O'Grady reckons managers will recalibrate their priorities. "Playing championship week after week is taxing and I think the first competition that will suffer is the league," he said. "I don't think it is going to be as competitive as it was. It was very competitive and it brought the crowds back they were bigger than they were say ten years ago and there was no easy game.
"That will suffer this year because I think managers will look at the league and say, 'If we are relegated maybe the county board will be short on finance but they are getting 10pc for the home games in championship, so I'm going to gear everything towards when it all kicks off in Munster or Leinster' and put all the eggs in that basket."
O'Grady's native Cork will look to build on a promising 2017 where they unveiled a raft of talented new players en route to an All-Ireland semi-final.
"To be honest, I think it took most people by surprise," he reflected. "They were very confident they had something going for them and they were working hard.
"They were disappointed with the league but the way it finished up may have been a blessing in disguise in some ways. Their championship outings spoke for themselves and I have no problem saying that I think if there were 15 versus 15 on that semi-final day I think they would have beaten Waterford. I don't think they would have beaten Galway but they would've got the experience of playing in an All-Ireland final."
Their year ended with Mark Coleman winning an All-Star award and youngsters Darragh Fitzgibbon and Colm Spillane receiving nominations with the likes of Luke Meade also hinting at his potential.
O'Grady believes incoming manager John Meyler is the right man to aid the development of those youngsters but warns 2018 will be more difficult for them.
O'Grady, who will be part of the touring party that will head to Boston today as part of the AIG Fenway Hurling Classic weekend, reckons the team that emerges from Leinster will be better placed to win the All-Ireland given the competitiveness within Munster.
And he sees the road opening up for defending champions Galway once more.
"The monkey is off their back and the pressure of having not won is off," he said. "They have the talent and the physique and the skill to do it again."