Hands Off The Munster Crown

“Thought - provoking” was the apt term for the retiring Co. Chairman’s address to last Monday’s Convention. Count me among those definitely provoked! The specific item in Barry O’Brien’s farewell which merits comment - indeed through analysis - was his call, if it was that emphatic, for examination of the provincial and All-Ireland series to see if separate championships would be of benefit. People he said were “voting with their feet” and “a very serious look needs to be given to the structures at national level”.

With due respect, I see no better wisdom in this matter of the inter-county structures.

It is far from a fresh topic - for years the theory of an Open Draw has been bloated, mostly from sources with neither feeling nor veneration for the provincial system - to such, tradition is a strait-jacket rather than something precious. No doubt “open” is a loaded word rather as “new” is to the manufacturers of products to be marketed.

Tipp. happen to be the holders of the Munster title, a fact which will hardly escape notice from the advocates of openness when the idea of radical change is seen to come from within our bounds - from, indeed, the highest possible level of administration. Oh, but nobody has said the provincial series should be abolished, the trophy consigned to a G.A.A. museum.

“Separate championships” could be run. A stand alone Munster series would have to be held before the Open championship. The League now occupies the preceding months; the Waterford Crystal the early period. How could there be scope for another competition without getting rid of something? And what a travesty of a Munster championship to have it reduced to a low-profile event at an unattractive time of year. What level of interest would there be if it became, as it would, a mere preliminary and a trial facility for the main target? People would surely “vote with their feet” and decline to turn out in large numbers to see, say, Cork v Tipp. in a game not much above Crystal level of significance.

Anyhow, haven’t we already got an “open” element to the existing system. The provincial section doesn’t rule the roost completely, not with the early losers going into games that are outside the scope of the province - we call them the “Qualifiers”, in which a Munster county may well be up against a Leinster one.

Seems to me we have a sensible balance between the old-established and amended facets as things stood, But, then, I’m probably arguing against a most unlikely possibility. The identity and the close knit rivalries of Munster and Leinster are hardly going to be discarded for the nebulous benefits of the all-in-the-hat theory. Still, when the advocates see support coming - or at least the notion envisaged - in title owning Tipperary, they may be encouraged to persist in advancing it.

Dublin CEO John Costello a few weeks ago came out with a similar call. He would replace the provinces with four “conferences” of eight counties. Problem is that at least sixteen of the thirty two would have no serious claim in hurling and on Open Draw among the other sixteen, or within each eight, would throw up lopsided games and no county’s prospects would immediately be any better than they are now.

He talked of “new County rivalries”, as if these would become meaningful overnight. The old rivalries took long years to establish and hardly deserve to be tampered with. Games within a province are more accessible in terms of distance, no small matter in current, and future economic constraints.

New Chairman Sean Nugent stressed the claims of the club in our scheme of things.

The volume of intercounty activity has an obvious bearing on club fixtures. Who, then, could logically favour a further expansion of outings for county teams by having a separate provincial championship added to the existing set-up? I am confident that we can depend on the good sense of Tipp. and the other Munster counties to shoot down any such proposition, we’ll keep, at least one trophy that the Cats won’t win!

The old order is in situ for 2012, anyhow, but people should be slow to lend credibility to moves towards either dilation - the “separate” idea - or outright abolition.

The Chairman seemed on better ground in questioning the number of games required to play out the club championships.

The group sector lacks real tension with only minimal casualties at the end of it.

The problem is that we have to balance between keeping clubs “alive” well into the season, and finalising matters in acceptable weather. The drop in “gates” must reflect the quota of fixtures involved.

Finance was a prominent concern at Convention and in reports. The almost year long volume of panel sessions could surely be reduced without any tangible harm to team performances.

The official two month moratorium is hardly observed to the better, or to the date.