Séamus Plunkett questions value of Leinster round robin group

Laois manager calls for GAA to take development projects more seriously

Laois manager Séamus Plunkett: wants a restructuring of the current process. Photograph: Inpho

Laois manager Séamus Plunkett: wants a restructuring of the current process. Photograph: Inpho


Laois hurling manager Séamus Plunkett has endorsed criticisms of the Leinster preliminary group already voiced by other managers involved in the round robin.

Plunkett’s team have had a promising start to the year by preserving their Division One B status, proving competitive against All-Ireland champions Clare in the league quarter-finals and are now one win away from qualifying with Antrim for the Leinster quarter-finals.

Although happy with his side’s progress since he took over at the beginning of last season, the Laois manager believes there is a fundamental need for the GAA to take development projects in the round-robin counties more seriously.

“We’re happy with our momentum but I wonder what is the objective of the round robin? If it’s all about development I think we need to have a different discussion because you can only grow the game if you have proper long-term plans and quality people overseeing them. You also need resources and some of the numbers being talked about to help the likes of ourselves, Antrim and Carlow won’t be enough.”

The round robin format was introduced to give a series of matches to the two counties which qualify for the Leinster quarter-finals. It is also part of a mechanism intended to reduce the number of counties participating in the MacCarthy Cup.

Antrim manager Kevin Ryan has said that the schedule is too rushed whereas Carlow’s John Meyler feels that it doesn’t benefit the counties who fail to qualify from the group but who previously would have played in main championship draw.

Long run
Plunkett accepts that the match practice is useful but queries whether the format will help counties in the long run.

“I think there are advantages to it although what was the objective of this whole exercise at the start? Was it to give games to these counties in preparation for the next stage? Well if you look at the outcome, the last team in the group goes down to the Christy Ring and stays there next year. Is that going to be helpful to a county that has ambitions in terms of growing?

“If you look at the objectives that were set out for that originally it’s very unclear to me how they’re going to help even in the here and now with a team that has to play Wexford or Galway. They’ll have gone through four Sundays in a row . . . Surely there could have been a break between the final game between those counties . I’d question how this was structured from the start and I’d certainly question was this intended to help counties get up to the level (of the provincial quarter-finals) . . .

“We’ll go with what’s there. We’re very enthusiastic about hurling in the county at the minute. There’s momentum behind us and we’re certainly going to build on that . . . we’ll give it our best shot and if we get out of the round robin to play Wexford or Galway, we’ll give it everything on that particular day.

“But we’re being asked to go from the league into effectively another league and after that into a knock-out championship the Sunday after and I think a restructuring of that would be more beneficial.”

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