GAA inability to stick with decisions falls way short of lovely hurling
Why is it so hard to make and uphold rulings in the association?
The history makers were Limerick and Dublin, neither of whom had won a provincial title in respectively, a long time and a vastly long time. Both hurled in the lower section of Division One. Last July, John Allen the Limerick manager – a long-time complainant about the six-county top tier – described it as “a bit amazing that two Division One B teams have won the provincial titles”.
So why change? Bigger counties were unhappy at the reduced revenues produced by the smaller, six-team divisions and there were fears that the cure for this – an extra layer of unappetising play-offs – would be worse than the ailment.
These aren’t trivial matters but if the decision was to be that a new structure should be introduced, surely it should have been on the basis of clearly laid-out procedures that would allow all affected counties to play next season for their status in 2015?
The substantive issue of the hurling league has become almost a sideshow, as the GAA stages a version of Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, getting increasingly stuck in different formats the more it struggles to resolve the issue.
Of most significance in all of this is the path that led to all of to-ing and fro-ing on the matter rather than whatever destination central council reaches on Saturday.
The trouble with hurling as distinct from football is one of shifting hierarchies. This has nothing to do with the identity of the best county but with the precise number of realistic contenders. Without the competitive depth of football, hurling needs to accommodate its league structures to the number of competitive counties rather than vice versa.
At times the more natural and symmetrical eight-team divisions have worked well in hurling. Back in 1997 the first season played on a calendar-year basis the eight counties in Division One were all well able to keep up and the result was an excellent series of matches, drawing big crowds.
There is nothing wrong with altering structures every now and then to reflect competitive levels within the game. The issue with the hurling league, however, is that there has developed a tendency to change it significantly, that is alter the status of counties, in the committee room rather than on the field of play.
When something that was largely functioning ends up in this sort of an imbroglio what are the chances of successfully addressing situations, like club fixture chaos, that manifestly aren’t?