Central Council under fire as NHL unaltered despite months of dithering
The GAA's Central Council risks being accused of bringing the Association into disrepute over its clumsy handling of the arrangements for the Allianz Hurling League.
After months of dithering over the format for next year's competition – a period which included a range of options emerging from a variety of sources – Central Council opted on Saturday to abide by a decision it had taken last December.
It means that Divisions 1A (Clare, Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford) and 1B (Antrim, Cork, Laois, Limerick, Offaly, Wexford) will operate under the group system which has been used in recent years. However, quarter-finals will be added, featuring the top four in both divisions.
Up to now, the top three in 1A, plus the winners in 1B, qualified for the semi-finals.
Central Council voted last December to add quarter-finals to the format but a counter-proposal emerged in August, suggesting that Cork and Limerick be added to 1A, bringing to eight the number of counties in the top flight.
Wexford and Offaly led the strong opposition to that idea, claiming it would create a big divide between the top eight and the rest. Subsequently, the introduction of a 'Super 12' was put forward, divided into two groups, comprising weaker and stronger counties.
Carlow and Westmeath sought to increase Division 1 to 14 counties so that they would be involved in the elite action.
However, that proposal was defeated 19-17 at Saturday's meeting, where it was also decided not to proceed with the 'Super 12' format. Instead, the decision taken 11 months ago will apply for the next three seasons.
It leaves Central Council facing tough questions as to why it agreed to reconsider last December's decision in the first place. The format agreed back then hadn't even applied for one season, yet it came under challenge in the summer.
The prolonged dithering reflects badly on Central Council, particularly on its capacity to reach well thought-out decisions and to stand by them.
The addition of quarter-finals to the NHL did not meet with universal support on the basis that the county which finishes fourth in the weaker 1B (10th overall) would qualify for the quarter-finals, whereas the fifth-placed side in the stronger 1A would not.
Central Council also decided on Saturday to amend the rules on hurling headgear so that the onus for wearing proper equipment rests with the players rather than referees.