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Carroll concerned that hurling's elite sides have 'climbed the ladder and pulled it up after them'

The former Offaly forward believes Munster counties will eventually object to having two sides eliminated at the provincial stage.

RTÉ pundit Brian Carroll.
RTÉ pundit Brian Carroll.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

DISSENTING VOICES OVER the format of the provincial hurling championships have been few and far between, but former Offaly star Brian Carroll has some concerns over the structure of the competition. 

2018 saw a round-robin format introduced to Leinster and Munster for the first time and it was deemed a resounding success in a thrilling summer of hurling. 

But at yesterday’s RTÉ’s GAA championship launch yesterday, Carroll spoke about his worry that hurling’s elite sides have “climbed the ladder and pulled it up after them”. 

“I’ve been saying it since this system was devised,” he said.

“It’s hugely unfair on one team and that’s Kerry. Even if they go and win the Joe McDonagh Cup they’re are not guaranteed to go up to the Munster championship. It seems to be: ‘Preserve the Munster championship at all costs’. Look, it’s a fantastic competition and we want that.

“But not all the teams are being treated fairly; not all the teams are equal. ‘Some animals are more equal than others’ to quote the famous Orwell. It’s disappointing that we have a structure where essentially people have climbed the ladder and pulled it up after them.”

Carroll can foresee a situation down the line where the Munster counties are unhappy to see two sides eliminated at the provincial stage.

“You talk about Munster teams being seeded, how long will we persist with this current situation until Munster will want it changed, when they see two of the top teams not progressing to the latter stages of the championship. I think they’ll rip up the rulebook again when teams start to lose out. 

Seamus Harnedy and Eoin Cadogan celebrate Seamus Harnedy and Eoin Cadogan with the 2018 Munster title. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Last year, Tipperary and Waterford underperformed and I don’t think anyone could really gripe about them being knocked out,” he continued.

“But if we have a rip-roaring Munster championship this year and two of the top teams aren’t through, I don’t think we’ll see the system persist for too much longer. I think it will be tweaked.

“It’s like the National Hurling League, it will be changed when it suits the top teams. We had a brilliant league in 1A and 1B, quarter-final system where teams in 1B still got a chance to play against teams in 1A.

“Because of the nature now of the Munster championship and the games coming thick and fast, we’ve essentially created a warm-up National League for the Munster and Leinster championships.

“That’s hugely disappointing. It’s being done for the wrong reasons. I’d fear that that is the way the Munster and Leinster championship could go over the next couple of years.” 

The 35-year-old’s solution is to use the provincial championships as straight knock-out warm-up competitions and open up the All-Ireland to 16 teams. 

“We’ve 15 teams between Leinster, Munster and Joe McDonagh. I’d add another team to it and go with four groups of four. You’d probably have two top teams seeded, two bottom teams and it allows everyone a chance to play three games against some of the top teams out there.

“And I think the top eight should go to the All-Ireland A championship and the next eight should go to the B championship. On All-Ireland final day we should have an A All-Ireland and a B All-Ireland. 

“For the likes of Offaly and Laois, if we got an opportunity to play in an All-Ireland B final on the same day as the A All-Ireland.

“Realistically we’re never going to win the All-Ireland under the current guise and a system like that could allow counties an opportunity to play against the top teams.

“But afterwards fall into a competition where they have realistic chances of winning and it keeps it interesting for the duration of the inter-county championship.”

Eugene McGee Eugene McGee patrolling the Offaly sideline in 1984. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

He paid tribute to former All-Ireland winning Offaly football manager Eugene McGee, who passed away over the weekend. 

“Eugene, he’s an adopted son of Offaly. Hugely regarded for what he did for Offaly football. Built them up over a number of years. while everyone remembers 82 and famously stopping Kerry’s five in a row, he brought Offaly back to the top over a number of years. winning three in a row in Leinster, allowing them to dine at the top table.

“At a time when Offaly were so successful, winning the 81 hurling final and the 82 football final. Phenomenal record for such a small county. While I’m from the hurling end of the county – my dad was playing for that Offaly team in 81 – Eugene McGee’s legacy and that 82 team, it’s a fantastic period in Offaly’s history.

“Everyone looks on it so fondly. People have regard and respect for all those men, particularly Eugene McGee for what he did. He’s a huge loss to football in general. Deepest sympathies to his family.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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