Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Big eight' to seek Central Council meeting over NHL

Christy Cooney. Photo: Sportsfile
Christy Cooney. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

THE GAA could be heading for a situation where they rescind a decision on the format of the NHL before it's implemented for even one season.

Representatives of the top eight hurling counties met senior GAA officials on Tuesday night to outline their objections to the new NHL structure, which was voted in by Central Council a few weeks ago.

Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford told GAA president Christy Cooney, president-elect Liam O'Neill and director general Paraic Duffy they were unhappy with the new format, which splits Division 1 into two groups of six (1A, 1B), thereby guaranteeing each county only five games.

Under the structure which applied for the last few years, Divisions 1 and 2 had eight counties, guaranteeing seven games. Limerick and Wexford were worst hit by the change as they are due to drop to 1B, where they will not play any of the top six. Wexford avoided relegation from Division 1 last spring, while Limerick were to be promoted to the top flight after winning Division 2.

Central Council voted 28-16 to scrap the eight-team Divisions 1 and 2, but the eight top hurling counties later got together to begin a campaign to have the decision rescinded. The mood of Tuesday night's meeting was described as "cordial," with GAA officials pointing out that the decision had been taken democratically and that an immediate change would be impractical.

However, the county representatives argued that hurling was not being well served by the new format. It's likely they will ask for a special meeting of Central Council to review the situation.

The Central Council meeting is not due until November 12, by which stage the master-fixtures plan for 2012 is to be formally ratified. If further change to the NHL is to be considered it would require an earlier Central Council meeting in order to leave time to plan next year's fixtures schedule.

The proposal to change the NHL required a majority only to be passed, but it would take a two-thirds majority to overturn the latest decision. Based on a delegate turn-out of 44, it would require 30 votes to force a change, quite a swing from the original result.

The top hurling powers contend it's unfair to have their section voted on by weaker counties, many of whom are essentially football-dominated.

However, senior Croke Park officials reject that approach on the grounds that the GAA must be run along traditional lines where every county has a vote on both hurling and football issues, irrespective of how strong they are in either code.

Irish Independent

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