Limerick don’t want to be left leagues apart
Munster champions call for expansion of Division One to eight teams
Niall Moran: “There has been a great levelling off of teams”. Photogaph: James Crombie/Inpho
Limerick intend using their progress to Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final as grounds for one last appeal against the hurling league structure for 2014 – which currently has them resigned to yet another season in the second tier.
With now unanimous agreement that the championship has served up the greatest feast of hurling in decades, Limerick’s case has strengthened considerably. Cork are also destined for second-tier hurling next spring, while recent attendances reflect an increased appetite for the major showdowns.
This is what Limerick secretary Mike O’Riordan will argue at a specially convened meeting in Croke Park tomorrow evening, where all county secretaries and chairman have been invited to air their thoughts on hurling development.
“I don’t know if the league structure is definitely on the agenda or not,” he said, “but we would definitely be still of the opinion that hurling would be far better served by an eight-team division one.”
Limerick’s discontent is with the existing six-team Division 1A and six-team Division 1B – and they’re not alone: the 2014 league structure was also raised at a recent meeting of the Munster Council, who also agreed their preference for an eight-team Division One.
As things stand, Limerick will play in Division 1B for the fourth successive year (along with Cork, Wexford, Offaly, Antrim and Laois). In 2011, they won the former Division Two title, only for the league to be then restructured into a six-team Division 1A and 1B; Limerick then lost the last two Division 1B play-offs, to Clare in 2012, and to Dublin this year.
Division 1A for 2014 will consist of Kilkenny, Dublin, Clare, Waterford, Galway and Tipperary – and yet O’Riordan believes all these counties would be better served by the addition of Limerick and Cork, thus making it an eight-team Division One.
“Again, you have to analyse all the facts thoroughly, starting with the financial implications. Cork would traditionally draw among the largest spectators for the league, so to have them out of the top tier will certainly reduce the pool of income . . . Counties have made great progress . . . and it would be a pity not to have another two counties competing at the top level.
“Look too at the attendances at championship hurling matches over the last few weeks. The two semi-finals are set to draw in over 120,000, and there’s no reason some of that can’t be carried over to the league.”
O’Riordan was, however, only cautiously optimistic of any change in time in 2014. “I think the structure will definitely be revised again for 2015. We’ll just have to see if the mood is strong enough to bring that change in for next year.”
Limerick have already admitted that the Gaelic Grounds can no longer be assumed to be the first-choice venue for their league games next year. “There’s always a concern with the Gaelic Grounds, year-on-year,” said O’Riordan, “. . . we’re dealing with high rates, high water charges, all that, so we’d be talking about €100,000 before we even open the doors. We would definitely need to be assured of a few decent attendances just to break even.”
Limerick hurler Niall Moran has also spoken on the need for the league revamp. “There has been a great levelling off of teams,” he said.
“Now, if you look at the league, there are very few preeminent competitions in any sport that only contain six teams. Most elite competitions would contain ten or 12. I think.
“As well as ourselves, Dublin, Wexford and Offaly have made huge strides this year. That makes a case for maybe a ten-game league. Maybe you could look at the role of these provincial competitions at the start of the year. Do they really play an important role at the start of the year? Could we not extend the League by a month to incorporate three extra games?
“We have so few hurling games in a year if we got three extra rounds of the League it would give greater exposure to our game.”