John Meyler says proposed league rejig is ‘a positive step for hurling’
Carlow manager claims new proposals look at ‘the bigger picture’ of the game
Carlow manager John Meyler: “If we had to drop down another division again that would probably set us back a year or two, but whatever advantages we did gain this year, we believe we can build on again.” Photograph: Inpho
All hurling counties should consider the “bigger picture” and support Saturday’s proposal to revise the league structure for 2014, according to Carlow manager John Meyler – who also suggests there might never be such a thing as an evenly-divided hurling league.
Central Council will meet on Saturday to decide whether or not to accept the proposal which would see the number of teams in Division 1A increased from six to eight, with Cork and Limerick earning a reprieve, to join Dublin, Kilkenny, Galway, Waterford, Clare and Tipperary.
Division 1B will continue with six counties, Wexford, Offaly, Laois, Antrim, Carlow and Westmeath. The vote will be decided on a simple majority and if agreed Central Council will also be asked to approve it for a five-year period.
Meyler, a Cork native, formerly managed Wexford, and while conscious of the assertion that the hurling league is in danger of being revised to a Heinz-chasing 57 varieties, and that certain counties feel victimised by the suddenness of this latest proposal, he believes it will ultimately serve the game well.
“You certainly can’t apply the football model to hurling,” says Meyler, “and expect to have divisions with an equal numbers of counties. I don’t think that will ever apply. But if you look at the proposed 1A for next year, with Cork and Clare are both up there, that’s two counties that contested the All-Ireland final this year.
“Limerick too, who won the Munster championship this year. So these counties have made major progress, and I think should be rewarded for that. Dublin won their way back up there but also won the Leinster championship this year, so these are the counties that should be there, really, and make for attractive fixtures across Division 1A.
“In Division 1B, you have Offaly and Wexford, Laois and Antrim, Westmeath and ourselves, and I think that would be extremely competitive as well. We played in Division 1B last year. Okay, we played five matches and lost all five matches, but we were competitive in almost every game, which is actually far more important.
“If we had to drop down another division again that would probably set us back a year or two, but whatever advantages we did gain this year, we believe we can build on again.”
Under the new proposal, following the regulation rounds, the top three finishers in Division 1A and the Division 1B winners would advance to the semi-finals; the bottom-placed team in Division 1A would be automatically relegated, with the seventh-placed side facing a relegation/promotion play-off against the losers of the Division 1B final.
“That’s the bottom line, that it’s up to these teams to work their way up as well. They have two opportunities. If you get into the 1B final and win that you go up, if you don’t you play the second bottom team in 1A. So there is huge incentive there but you have to get it right, and show progress on a continuous basis. The same with the counties looking to work up from Division 2A, or Division 2B.
“Hurling will always consist of a series of steps. We want to be playing the likes of Wexford and Offaly. We know Wexford and Offaly would rather be playing the likes of Limerick and Dublin and Cork. But it’s all about gradual steps.”
Wexford and Offaly have expressed particular dissatisfaction at the proposed format, particularly the fact they weren’t afforded the chance to earn a place in Division 1A next year, should the proposal be passed.
“Of course once Cork were relegated people started murmuring, but you can understand all that,” says Meyler. “The same with Limerick, who won the Munster title. But these counties put themselves in that position.
“Of course there is the resources issue as well, and when you see counties like Dublin signing a big sponsorship deal with the likes of AIG, they’re going to want the likes of Cork and Limerick coming to play. That comes into play as well, but why I’d hope the GAA would look at spreading out the resources more proportionately too.
“That’s why I think this proposal should be passed, and I think will be passed, for the overall, holistic picture of hurling. I’d certainly be supportive of it, that Carlow would be 100 per cent behind it, because I think it does look at the bigger picture of hurling, rather than just the details of relegation and promotion or whatever. It would see it as a positive step for hurling.”