Laois GAA are against the proposed changes to the provincial and All Ireland hurling championships – which will be discussed at this weekend’s Central Council meeting in Croke Park.
The proposed changes would see the Munster and Leinster championships consist of five teams each and being played off on a round robin basis. However, Laois would not be one of the teams in the 2018 Leinster Championship and would instead play in a weaker section alongside Kerry, Westmeath, Carlow and Antrim.
The reward for topping the group would be promotion to the Leinster championship the following year – and a game against the third-placed side in Munster or Leinster in order to qualify for that season’s All Ireland quarter-final.
Current manager Eamonn Kelly and current captain Ross King are both against the changes while the executive of Laois GAA met on Monday night where they also decided not to back them.
“We are not in favour of what is being proposed,” said Laois GAA chairman Gerry Kavanagh when speaking to LaoisToday.
“Our big problem with it is that the only competition that Laois could partake in is the All Ireland and they are playing for their position in the Leinster championship the following year. How could you motivate a team for that? There’s nothing to fear for the elite counties in this system but we’re certainly not satisfied with what’s being proposed.”
The proposed changes will be put to a Special Congress in the autumn and would come into play for the 2018 season. The move comes as the Super 8 Round Robin system is to be introduced at the All Ireland football quarter-final stages for next season and the fear is that the football will dominate the sporting landscape due to the increased number of games.
To help counter that, these proposals have been drawn up but they see the Round Robin system being used at the start of the championship rather than the latter stages as will be the case in the football.
Laois boss Eamonn Kelly says he is also against the proposals but says he doesn’t have a problem with Laois being outside of the top tier competition if the secondary championship is played throughout the summer, with more promotion of it and the final played before the All Ireland final in September in Croke Park.
“Laois aren’t at the standard of the top teams just yet but if there was a competition with the likes Laois, Kerry, Westmeath, Meath, Kerry, Carlow and Kildare during the summer with the final in Croke Park I think it would be brilliant.
“There are some great games when teams of a same standard play against each other. The league playoff between ourselves and Kerry was a brilliant game but only the 500 or 600 people who were at it got to see it. There wasn’t even a camera at it.
“It’s awful to see the likes of Kerry and Meath finished playing hurling in early May just when the ground is getting hard. I know the work that they put into hurling and the improvements they’re making. The same with Kildare and Wicklow and these teams.
“Wouldn’t it be great to play the games throughout the summer months before the other games and the final in Croke Park in September. If you won that competition you’d be in a great place the following year to go and play in the higher grade.
“With the minor changing to U-17, the GAA have a good opportunity now to make changes that would help the weaker counties and really promote the game.”