After all the talk the League is the same

GAA followers finally know the format for the 2014 National Hurling League, but many enthusiasts remain unhappy, writes Nickey Brennan.

GAA followers finally know the format for the 2014 National Hurling League, but many enthusiasts remain unhappy, writes Nickey Brennan.

That old adage ‘you can satisfy some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time’ springs to mind when analysing how Central Council reached the decision on the format.

I doubt if anyone could have envisaged the hullabaloo the format would cause when it first came on to the agenda months ago. I do not understand how the GAA allowed a debate on the format when it had already been decided that the next year’s League would operate on the same format as 2013.

I know many, including this writer, are not particularly excited by the current League format, but it must be acknowledged that we enjoyed some memorable games during this year’s competition. The finger of suspicion immediately pointed at Cork and Limerick as the two counties who sought a new format for 2014.

However, I do not believe either county made such a request, although as Munster finalists this year many people held the view that both should be operating in the top division. From the outset the revised format had it detractors and appeared doomed to failure.

Michael Burns from Monaghan then came to the rescue and proffered a different format which I would have to say was innovative and imaginative.

That format incurred the wrath of Carlow and Westmeath, which was understandable. Adding Carlow and Westmeath to the Burns’ proposal appeared logical, but it did have the potential for some lobsided games.

Last Saturday week when the GAA Central Council was asked to adjudicate on the various proposals I predicted that the status quo would remain simply because the proposals appeared overly complicated. That was not the case, but when different arguments are put before delegates it tends to confuse people. The inevitable outcome then is usually ‘leave things alone’.

It was somewhat ironic that the day after the GAA decided to leave the League format as it was that a Carlow side qualified for a first Leinster club senior hurling final. Had that deserved result been known prior to the League format being decided I wonder would the decision have been the same? Somehow I doubt it!

While Carlow was unfortunate in the 2013 League when a number of disappointing performances saw them relegated. They have expressed their anger, which I can appreciate. Now is the time to knuckle down and battle back to a higher division.

With the League format decided we know that Kilkenny will start the title defence against All-Ireland champions, Clare in Ennis. It is customary to have a high profile opener and right now this is the top draw in hurling.

Kilkenny has three home fixtures out of five games and all three, against Tipperary, Galway and Waterford will be big crowd pullers. Nowlan Park enjoyed some spectacular games this year and the three League encounters next spring should be no less exciting.

The action, though, will commence well before then when Kilkenny plays Wexford in a fund-raising challenge game in Kennedy Park, New Ross on Sunday, December 8. The game is in aid of the Tomas Watters injury fund.

The player suffered an horrific injury in the championship quarter-final in Thurles and his recovery has been difficult and protracted.

He faces a challenge to regain fitness. The New Ross challenge is an opportunity for supporters to help a young hurler whose unfortunate accident has left him hospitalised for months.

I am pleased the Central Council adopted the current structure until the end of the 2016 league.

It made a similar decision last year yet found itself with a real dilemma on its hands over recent months. Thankfully all is now sorted, albeit with a few unhappy counties.

Where has the HDC been all this time? It appears that good hurling men were left outside the room as the debate unfolded.