Davy Fitzgerald says GAA needs to urgently address league structure
Clare manager believes gap to Kilkenny and Tipperary not too great
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald, former Kilkenny star Eddie Keher and former Derry star Joe Brolly at the launch of the 14th Annual All-Ireland GAA Golf Challenge in aid of Opt For Life and Local Waterford Charities at Croke Park on Tuesday. Photograph: Sportsfile
“Listen, it’s pure luck,” says Davy Fitzgerald, explaining how Kilkenny and Tipperary found their way into Sunday’s final of the Allianz Hurling League – and that’s before he even gets going.
“Fair play, they’ve shown form in the last few weeks, but ye all know it could have been anyone. Kilkenny beat us by a point in Cusack Park and we could easily have won it. If we had they’d have been fighting relegation. They’re probably the two best teams in the country but I don’t think they’re as far ahead as they were a few years ago.”
The Clare manager politely adds that he thinks Kilkenny will win it, but the far more pressing matter is the league structure itself, which Fitzgerald says the GAA needs to urgently address: in a sort of monologue to the nation on the state of hurling, what exactly are they waiting for?
“My point with the whole national league is that playing these games, at that level, is massive, and our young team anyway want to be playing at that level. I understand Limerick’s frustration, I really do. It must be the same for Wexford, Offaly, Antrim even. They need to be competing at that level.
“So I would prefer 10 teams. Start at the end of January, and forget about the Waterford Crystal. ‘Too early for hurling’, that’s rubbish. Like we had 1,500 people at one of our Waterford Crystal games.
“Why not start it earlier? I think hurling is an unreal game to watch, even outside of it. The amount of people who knew nothing about hurling, even from abroad that I’ve met and said to me ‘that game is unreal’ . . . Let’s have more of it.
“And I’d like to see one up, and one down. That gives teams who think they’re good enough to get up the chance, if they want to. But by having 10 teams you’re bringing more to the table, and it would make for a more competitive game, come the end of the year.
“I’m saying this as a hurling person, not as Clare manager. . . . I think this needs to be looked at, put a committee in place, how can we help the counties progress.”
Fitzgerald even admits Cork’s relegation to Division 1B shouldn’t be used as an excuse or incentive to change things: “ . . . forget about that stuff, the politics of who’s going up or down, and let’s just change it, end of story.”
Clare’s survival in Division 1A bodes well for the summer, and Fitzgerald is optimistic the gap is closing on Kilkenny: “It’ll help our confidence. I don’t know after that. We just wanted to avoid relegation and we’re delighted we did that. We’re looking forward to the summer ahead.”
And speaking of the summer, should the GAA look again at the championship structure? “I know there were new proposals put out there, and they got buried fairly quickly. I’m a person that likes change. You’d still like to retain the Munster championship. But round robin after that? Maybe. Some people say it could kill club hurling, but I don’t think so.”