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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

Structure of All-Ireland hurling qualifiers needs to be revised - Ollie Baker

The coach’s comments come after Offaly exited the Championship at the weekend, despite another battling display.

Offaly coach, Ollie Baker.
Offaly coach, Ollie Baker.

OLLIE BAKER RECKONS the time has come to overhaul the All-Ireland hurling qualifiers.

The Faithful exited the Championship despite another battling display when losing to Waterford and Baker feels developing teams need to be assisted.

“Those lads deserve better than that from the organisation. Michael Ryan was facing the same emptiness and hibernation period. That wasn’t going to do them any good. You are talking about a public wanting to see matches, players wanting to play matches. There is an appetite out there, but the way things are at the moment it just isn’t helping developing teams,” Baker said.

“The same thing happened us last year. We were bet on July 6 and we weren’t until February again. We are fighting a tough enough battle anyway, but it is like hitting a mountain stage in the Tour de France when you are supposed to be sprinting. It is demoralising for the players. They have given up eight months of their lives and they have played only seven matches this year.

“There has to be a change for the development of hurling as a game. Offaly is a stronghold. There is no concentration of development. This isn’t intended to sound like sour grapes. Waterford were facing the exact same scenario. It is not good for hurling.”

Offaly drew level by the 47th minute of a lively tussle with Waterford, but Baker lamented their failure to push on from there. “We just weren’t able to kick on. They came back, got two more points and that kept a bit of distance between us. At the end we were left chasing for a goal and that isn’t what you want to be doing.

“It was a hard enough evening for hurling, but I thought it was a very entertaining and honest game. It is just a pity that we are out on June 22 and our next competitive game won’t be until next February.”

Waterford counterpart Michael Ryan was encouraged by the composure his players showed, especially the splendid Maurice Shanahan, who scored 0-13.

“At half-time we emphasised the importance of playing intelligent hurling and using the ball against the wind. I thought we worked really hard and took up some very good positions up front. If the guys up front made the runs it would be up to our guys in the half back line and midfield to seek them out. Maurice got something like 13 points and really stepped up to the plate. He had an outstanding game and was crucial for us,” Ryan reflected.

“He’s probably an under-rated player and has had a tough time with injuries. He had two operations last November, two hip operations, and it took him a while to get back to fitness but he’s starting to hit top gear now.”

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