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'There is a view there that we will go back to two equal divisions' - potential changes for 2020 hurling league

The last two Liam MacCarthy Cup winners have come from Division 1B.

Walter Walsh and Padraic Maher in action in this year's hurling league final.
Walter Walsh and Padraic Maher in action in this year's hurling league final.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A REVIEW OF the hurling league structure is being explored in an effort to correct the imbalance between the pressure on teams in Division 1A and the opportunity afforded to leading teams in Division 1B to compete.

The battle to avoid relegation has resulted in huge competition in the opening months of the season between counties in Division 1A.

With the last two All-Ireland hurling champions (Galway and Limerick) having operated that season out of Division 1B, it has strengthened the argument that it suits teams more to play in the second tier in the spring before the championship challenges in the summer.

“It was felt the winners of the All-Ireland were coming out of 1B and 1A seemed to be extremely competitive,” outlined GAA President John Horan.

“There was a feeling there that it wasn’t giving managers an opportunity to actually play players in a developmental manner, because results were key, particularly in 1A, even in 1B because they were all trying to get out of it.

“There is a view there that we will go back to two equal divisions and that they would play and there would only be relegation between the bottom two in each division so relegation wouldn’t be a factor and teams would get a chance to rest players and that players would get a chance to break through.

Launch of ESRI Report into Playing Senior Intercounty Gaelic Games President John Horan at the launch of the ESRI report into playing GAA inter-county games. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

“That change won’t happen next year. If that change was to happen in 2020 it would obviously create the situation in the 2019 league that the relegation factor wouldn’t be there. It might take some of the pressure out of the league even in 2019 even if the structure of the league would be somewhat similar.”

Horan does not believe ‘there is a whole lot more scope’ to condense the inter-county season further after this year saw the hurling final take place on 19 August and the football decider bring the curtain down on the 2018 championships when it was staged on 2 September.

“We’ve tightened the inter-county season as it is. The games-to-training ratio has to get a balance and if you take out games, that’s still leaves the training regimes unchanged. In a funny way you’re probably doing a player more of a favour by putting in more games because they come with rest periods in between rather than having to do hard training.

“I don’t think there is a whole lot more scope for us to condense the actual season. We finished on the first weekend in September and started on the first in May. We did tighten it up and get more games in, which probably was to suit the players. I don’t think we can tighten up the league any more and I don’t know if there’s the space to do it.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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