GAA in talks to address football’s threat to hurling in Super 8 era

HDC’s Paudie O’Neill says change to hurling championship structures are inevitable

Hurling Development Committee chairman Paudie O’Neill. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Hurling Development Committee chairman Paudie O’Neill. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

 

Hurling Development Committee chairman Paudie O’Neill has confirmed that talks are underway to address the imbalance that will exist between hurling and football during the peak summer months when the ‘Super 8’ format kicks in.

O’Neill met with GAA director general Paraic Duffy and president Aogán Ó Fearghail last week for discussions regarding potential alterations to the hurling championship’s structure.

Tipperary man O’Neill, who coached his county to the 2014 All-Ireland final, noted that the Super 8 structure, which comes into effect next year, will create a “significant imbalance” between the amount of games played during the months of July and August, estimated at a ratio of 4:1 in favour of football.

Various hurling figures have called for the disparity to be addressed as a matter of urgency and O’Neill reported that talks were now underway. However, his belief is that any proposal put forward by the HDC would have to incorporate the existing provincial championships.

Clare star Tony Kelly and Waterford manager Derek McGrath both said recently that they were in favour of doing away with provincial structures and adopting a format similar to the Allianz leagues.

“I think there’s no appetite for getting rid of them,” said O’Neill. “I think the provincial championships would need to be incorporated into whatever comes down the line.”

The former Dublin hurler did accept, however, that some sort of change was coming down the line.

Mood for change

“There’s a general feeling out there that there is a mood for change,” he said. “We’re not at the point yet where we’re going to go into any specifics on any proposals but change is an inevitable part of life.

“Obviously the football changes were brought about recently but until they occurred on the Saturday at Congress, nobody could say for certain if they would get over the line or not.

“What has to happen now is that those changes are taken into account and it’s pretty obvious that there is a significant imbalance between the number of high-profile games that will be occurring in football and hurling.

“It wouldn’t be that difficult to respond to that by generating more hurling matches but the really important thing is that they are meaningful and competitive games. The hurling public, they have a good nose for these sort of things.

“Look at last Sunday, there were three really top-class games between Dublin and Kilkenny, Waterford and Clare, and Tipperary and Cork. As far as I can make out the crowds were very good and the interest was very high and that’s because there was so much at stake.

“So it’s not a case of generating more games for the sake of it, it’s about generating games that are competitive and that will be attractive.”

Waterford manager McGrath also suggested at a media event last week that the HDC was privately planning to overhaul the Allianz league’s structures.

Speculation

GAA director of games administration Feargal McGill confirmed on Monday that this would not be happening and said that the present Division 1A and 1B arrangements would continue.

“There was some speculation recently about the league being changed but that was clarified by Feargal that there won’t be a change to the structure for next year,” said O’Neill. “From my reading of things, that’s correct.

“I don’t think you can go changing everything. If the championship structure is going to be looked at, that has to take priority because whatever happens in that regard will have a broader impact.

“I don’t think you could go and do it the other way around, change the league and then change the championship. No, that was never on the cards but I do think, as I said at the outset, that there is a mood for change.

“I feel that is out there and the HDC is only one part of the equation. There is the director general, the president, the management committee, obviously the players, and everyone is involved in the process.”

O’Neill said it was possible that a proposal for championship reform could be on the agenda early next year for Annual Congress delegates to vote upon, meaning it could come into effect for the 2019 season. “That could be the timeline,” said O’Neill.

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