Wednesday 21 March 2018

Fahey wants return of league semi-finals

martin breheny

DESPITE qualifying directly for the NHL final, Galway would favour the restoration of the semi-finals in order to boost the competition.

Only the Dublin v Limerick game, which decides on relegation, will have any real significance in the final round of Division 1 ties on Sunday week. Galway v Cork, Kilkenny v Waterford and Offaly v Tipperary, all of which would be glamour ties in different circumstances, will generate limited interest.

That, in turn, will reduce the gate receipts and since counties share in the overall league money, it's a hit they can ill-afford at a time when other income streams have dropped.

Galway Hurling Board secretary John Fahey favours reverting to the semi-final format, as was the case up to last year when, for the first time, the top two qualified directly for the final.

"It would have a double advantage in that it would ensure that the last round of games were really competitive while also adding two more big games to the league," he said.

Fahey's plan envisages '1 versus 4' and '2 versus 3' semi-final pairings in Division 1 with the first and second-placed teams having home advantage. If that system applied this year, Cork and Galway would have qualified for the semi-finals with Waterford, Tipperary and Kilkenny battling for the other two places.

However, since the top two would have home advantage in the semi-final, the Galway v Cork clash on Sunday week would be competitive as Galway could be overtaken for second place by Waterford, if the league reverted to scoring difference rather than head-to-head results to decide final placings.

As it is, Cork and Galway have qualified for the final but must first play each other in a group game at Pearse Stadium. Both sides will use the occasion to give players outside the first 15 a chance to impress, which won't be good for gate receipts.

Rumours that the prize for the winners would be home advantage in the final are unfounded. "We couldn't add in a proviso like that at this stage of the competition," said a Croke Park spokesperson.

The switch to straight finals in all divisions in both hurling and football was made in order to free up an extra weekend for club activity, but Fahey believes that since club championships haven't yet started, it would be possible to schedule two league semi-finals.

The use of head-to-head results to decide placings where teams finish on the same number of points has restricted the possibilities on the final day of the league games. And while Galway have benefited from it, Fahey believes the old system was fairer.

"We could just as easily be at the receiving end of the head-to-head system," he said. "In my view we should go back to scoring difference."

Irish Independent

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