Kilkenny fight to resolve League row

IT’S BEEN little over a week since Kilkenny’s last success at Croke Park, but the Cats have been back at GAA’s HQ in search of another victory.

IT’S BEEN little over a week since Kilkenny’s last success at Croke Park, but the Cats have been back at GAA’s HQ in search of another victory.

This time, however, it was in the board-room and not on the pitch.

The new All-Ireland champions were one of eight counties scheduled to meet with GAA officials at Croker last night (Tuesday) in an effort to resolve the row surrounding changes to next year’s National Hurling League.

A meeting with the President of the GAA, Christy Cooney and Director General Paraic Duffy was called for after counties voiced their concerns over the change in format for the 2012 NHL campaign. Rather than progress with an eight-team competition, Central Council passed proposals from the National Hurling Development Work Group in August to increase the division to 12 teams and split that into two groups of six.

Should the changes go ahead Kilkenny would play in Division 1A alongside Tipp, Cork, Galway, Dublin and Waterford next year. Wexford and Limerick will join Offaly, Antrim, Laois and Clare in Division 1B, essentially a second division in the League.

Following a meeting of Co Board officials the eight top flight teams gave their full backing to appeal the split, with the chief concerns being that the changes would hurt counties both on the field and off it.

“It means less games, which means less revenue for counties,” Kilkenny Co Board chairman Paul Kinsella told the ’People. “The move also means that, for want of a better word, Limerick and Wexford have been demoted.

“Counties were sent out three options for the League,” explained Mr Kinsella. “The first was a six-team league with a final. Option Two was a six-team league with Division One and Two the same but the top two in Division Two would meet the third and fourth placed teams from Division One in a quarter-final round, followed by semi-finals and a final. Option Three was an eight-team league with semi-finals and a final.

“We couldn’t live with Option One which, unfortunately, was the option which was passed,” he said. “A shorter League means less exposure for hurling.”

Six of the eight counties who would have been involved in the original Division One met recently in Tipperary, with chairman and secretary from each Co Board discussing their opposition to the revamped League. The absent counties, Dublin and Galway, were in support of the meeting.

Coupled with a reduction in games and revenue, Kilkenny also believe that a smaller league programme would hamper the chances to introduce fresh faces into their senior set-up.

“From our point of view there will be less games in this League, which means fewer opportunities to try out new players,” Mr Kinsella pointed out. “We believe there are more than six counties who are fit for Division One hurling. For some counties it could mean that they simply have the five games in the league and two in the championship, which could mean just seven games in the year.”

While it is believed that some counties have mooted the idea of withdrawing from the league, Kilkenny are not among that group.

“We don’t know what will happen, but I’d like to think that there’s always a resolution with anything I’m involved in,” finished Mr Kinsella.