Saturday 21 April 2018

GAA finally decide to retain NHL status quo

Cork's Patrick Horgan leaves the pitch after defeat to Clare in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A relegation play-off last April
Cork's Patrick Horgan leaves the pitch after defeat to Clare in the Allianz Hurling League Division 1A relegation play-off last April

DAMIAN LAWLOR

CARLOW County Board chairman Michael Meaney says his county are devastated following Central Council's decision to retain the same format of last season's Allianz Hurling League.

That decision means Limerick and Cork, as originally expected, will play in Division 1B next spring. The only change to the existing format will see the addition of quarter-finals in the top divisions.

Division 1A will feature Kilkenny, Clare, Waterford, Galway, Tipperary and Dublin while the second tier promises to be ultra-competitive between Limerick, Cork, Offaly, Antrim, Laois and Wexford.

Three proposals had been put to Council delegates. The first was to retain the outgoing format; the second, formatted by Monaghan native Michael Burns, was to introduce a 'Super 12' system which would have been seeded and divided into two sections of six teams.

This looked to have been the favoured option until a third proposal, tabled by Carlow and Westmeath, was put forward, seeking a 'Super 14' template. This joint-proposal had attracted much support in recent weeks but it was defeated by just two votes, 19-17, yesterday.

"I am bitterly disappointed and I know that our manager, John Meyler, is absolutely devastated," Carlow chairman Michael Meaney told the Sunday Independent. "Losing by such a narrow vote is akin to losing a county final by a point. The reality, though, is that we still lost. I'm glad that 17 counties saw fit to back us, even if 19 saw it otherwise.

"The flavour we got for our proposal had been positive; more positive than the result. We had been told we had the support of 25 counties. Eight went against us and I'm particularly disappointed with one or two.

"But when I was going for Carlow chairman I was advised that whatever vote you think you have, take 20 per cent off it. Then wait a while and take another 20 per cent away. What you're left with is more than likely your end vote. And so it has proved. "

Carlow pushed hard in four games of this year's Division 1B and gave Wexford an almighty scare in the qualifiers. Their under 21s beat Dublin in this year's Leinster championship. Now they face life in hurling's top tier.

"And what a fight we face," Meaney adds. "We just have to get on with it now and we will. We must go out and try to win 2A but Westmeath will be there with us, so too will Derry and Kerry – it won't be easy. The main thing is that we hang onto our promising players; we have to and I hope we do. They are good Carlow men and they believe in John Meyler."

And so after weeks of uncertainty, the GAA can finally get on with the business of fixture-making for next spring. There was an expectation that it would be all change but the heel of the hunt is there has been no change at all.

Sunday Independent

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