By Brian McDonnell
SEÁN Nugent, chairman of the CCC (Competition Control Committee) and vice-chairman of the County Board, has appealed to clubs to “bring a bit of colour” to the county senior hurling championship.
Seán Nugent was speaking at the Horse & Jockey when senior manager Declan Ryan officially launched the county championship and encouraged the Tipperary hurling public to “get out, get behind their team and support their clubs” last week.
Nugent, who works alongside CCC secretary Tom Maher and the rest of the committee, said that they had not yet settled on a pricing structure for the county senior hurling championship, but the fact that patrons could avail of the E100 season tickets which are available to purchase at Lár na Páirce, Thurles.
“It (ticket prices) is a bone of contention at the moment with the financial state of the country and all that,” Seán Nugent said.
“The pricing structures will have to be looked at, but the games are good value for money and we will certainly take the economic circumstances into consideration in regard to the gates. We will try, where we can, to put on double bills that are attractive and that will give people that bit more entertainment and have them reasonably priced.”
Thurles Sarsfields’ campaign to land a third successive county title following their 2009 and 2010 successes will begin on Saturday, July 23 when the Blues are scheduled to take on Knockavilla Kickhams at The Ragg (4pm) in the first round. Thurles Sarsfields’ clash with Knockavilla will form the first part of a double header which also involves Roscrea’s battle with Boherlahan-Dualla (5.45pm).
Four first round games will take place on Sunday, July 17 - Borris-Ileigh v Ballingarry (Templemore at 5.45pm), Lorrha & Dorrha v Cashel King Cormacs (Templemore at 7.15pm), Upperchurch-Drombane v Moneygall (The Ragg at 5.45pm) and Moycarkey-Borris v Burgess (The Ragg at 7.15pm).
The first round of the county championship will come to a close on Sunday, July 24 when Moneygall hosts the clash between Borrisokane and Kilruane McDonagh’s (5pm) while Ballybacon-Grange face Portroe in Dundrum at 7pm.
The winners of each game will progress to round two when the defeated divisional semi-finalists will take on the round one winners - this round will involve eight games.
In round three the eight round two winners will face each other in an open draw format with the winners of the four games involved progressing to round four. Round four will involve four games - the four winners from round three pitted against the defeated divisional finalists.
The winners of round four will then progress to the county quarter-finals to take on the divisional champions.
Repeat pairings will be avoided where possible (up to and including the quarter-finals) while extra-time will be played in all rounds.
Speaking at the launch County Board chairman Barry O’Brien said that he wished to “stress the importance of the senior club hurling championship in Tipperary” and to “promote an interesting championship with competitive games from day one” while Declan Ryan described October and November, during which months the club championship reaches its dramatic conclusion, as his favourite time of the hurling year.
“The club championship,” Declan Ryan said, “brings out the best in both supporters and players alike. I have great memories of the club championship, 1989 in particular was a great year for our club (Clonoulty-Rossmore). We had not won the county championship for 101 years so there was great hysteria at the time.”
Declan Ryan also commended the “incredible effort” going on at club level and said that “we are very lucky in Tipperary that we have clubs producing players of the calibre that we have at the minute”.
Seán Nugent, chairman of the CCC, described the logistics involved in planning such a championship around inter-county fixtures as an “almighty headache”, but was also quick to add that “we want to be in All-Ireland finals and we want to win All-Ireland finals and there’s probably a price to pay for that.
“There are aspects of it (club championship structure) that I would not be one hundred per cent happy with, but it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect solution to the championship and to meet the demands of everybody.
“We’re trying to get away from the situation we had last year where after winning the All-Ireland senior and under-21 titles we were forced to ask the clubs to come out on a Tuesday night, Wednesday night under lights in Semple Stadium and play the championship games and maybe come out again three or four days afterwards and continue with the championship.
“That was difficult, but they did it. There were no complaints, but we would prefer if we didn’t have to ask clubs to do that.”
The number of teams competing for the Dan Breen Cup has now been capped at 32. The eight losing teams from round one of the county championship will then compete in the quarter-finals of the Seámus Ó Riain Cup (open draw). The winners of those games will progress to the semi-finals et cetera.
The losing teams from the quarter-finals of the Seámus Ó Riain Cup will play in an open draw knock-out system, with extra time not required except for a replay, with the loser of the last game dropping down to the intermediate grade for 2012.
“There are 32 senior teams, people say there are too many, but whether there are or not senior clubs are proud of their senior status and they don’t want to relinquish it,” Nugent said.
“I was one of those who was opposed to it (relegation), but I had to recognise and the county CCC had to recognise that we had to have it, that we could not let it go on past the 32. Thirty-two, I suppose, may be too many, but it is an ideal number from a fixtures point of view and so on.”
Seán Nugent also said that considering the structure of the relegation series a club would “not have too many excuses” if it found itself relegated to the intermediate grade.
“Since that motion was passed at the convention,” Seán Nugent added, “I would have met people who would have been very much opposed to relegation, but who have now acknowledged that the way we have it structured is not too bad.
“They still don’t want to be the one though that goes down.
“That senior status is cherished really by so many clubs, especially the traditional seniors clubs. They certainly cherish it and would see it as a bad blow to be relegated.”
At last week’s launch County Board PRO Ger Ryan also took some time out to congratulate Ger Corbett on last year’s county senior hurling final programme which won a McNamee Award. These awards, the GAA’s national communications and media awards, are named after the late Pádraig McNamee, former president of the GAA, chairman of the GAA Commission (1969-1971) and a member of RTÉ authority.
They are presented annually in recognition of outstanding contributions made by individuals and association units in the area of media.
County Senior Hurling Championship Round One: Moycarkey-Borris v Burgess, Ballybacon-Grange v Portroe, Borris-Ileigh v Ballingarry, Upperchurch-Drombane v Moneygall, Lorrha & Dorrha v Cashel King Cormacs, Kilruane MacDonagh’s v Borrisokane, Thurles Sarsfields v Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams, Roscrea v Boherlahan-Dualla.