Sunday 22 April 2018

Top counties threaten to boycott NHL

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

JUST days after their showpiece hurling final illuminated Croke Park, the GAA is facing a serious revolt over next season's league format and it is being led by some of country's small-ball superpowers.

Six counties were represented at a secret meeting in Thurles on Wednesday night to formulate a plan to oppose last month's controversial restructuring of the NHL. The Irish Independent has learned that the counties involved were All-Ireland champions Kilkenny, beaten finalists Tipperary, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Wexford.

This powerful group is also confident that several more high-profile hurling counties, who were not in attendance, will row in behind them.

Up for discussion was last month's contentious restructuring of the Allianz Hurling League and their first course of action has been to send a letter to Croke Park seeking a meeting with GAA president Christy Cooney, CEO Paraic Duffy and president-elect Liam O'Neill.

"We mean business," one source revealed last night. "If things aren't changed, there is a very serious possibility that some counties will boycott the hurling leagues next year."

There have been rumblings of discontent ever since last month's Central Council agreed to a new NHL format in 2012.

Wexford, who had retained their Division 1 status last season, and Limerick, who won Division 2 and expected to be promoted only to find themselves back where they started due to the latest reshuffle, immediately came out and voiced their opposition.

It was expected that they, and several more second-tier counties like Clare and Offaly, would lead the backlash.

But it is many of hurling's premier tier (Division 1A) who are leading the fight, apparently upset that the number of guaranteed league games has dropped from seven to five, due to a format of four six-team divisions, with straight finals between the top two in each.

Irish Independent

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