Brennan: NHL format is flawed12/04/2012 - 17:17:40
Former GAA President Nickey Brennan does not feel the current five-match format in the Allianz Hurling League is working.
Brennan used his weekly column in the Kilkenny People to put across his view that players and supporters would benefit from a longer league campaign, as used to be the case.
"Despite a number of stirring encounters during the league, the format remains flawed," he said.
"Five games (aside from the knockout stages) is far too little for both the counties involved and the game in general.
"Hopefully sense will prevail and the 2013 Hurling League will revert to eight team groups with semi-finals and a final. Hurling supporters are being badly short-changed by the current format."
For 2012 the GAA took the decision to cut the number of teams in the top tiers of the hurling league, Divisions 1A and 1B, meaning that there were only five rounds of group matches played over a shorter run - instead of seven rounds as in previous years.
The sides that finished in the top three positions in Division 1A - Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary - have qualified for next weekend's semi-finals and they will be joined by Clare, who topped Division 1B and won last weekend's divisional final against Limerick.
GAA Director General Paraic Duffy has been quite vocal in his support of the new league format, insisting that teams will have benefited from the competitiveness of the fixtures.
"The big challenge there was trying to find 12 teams competitive games and I think it has done that when other years it was two groups of eight," explained Duffy.
"As a personal opinion, I would think it has worked very well and it has been competitive right to the end. The relegation play-offs, semi-finals and finals will be good, so everything has worked quite well."
Some players have spoken out in the media against the smaller six-team divisions, including Waterford star John Mullane who feels the margin between earning a semi-final spot and ending up in the relegation play-off is too small.
For instance, semi-finalists Tipperary finished in third place with six league points - just two points (or a single win) above Galway who will contest a relegation play-off with Dublin this weekend.
The campaign was also tough on Division 1B side Wexford who, despite winning two of their five group games, now find themselves in a relegation play-off against Laois this Sunday.
"You've only five games and that's just not enough," insisted Mullane. "If you lose two games you're fighting relegation - we lost our first two games and straight away you're in trouble. I think it's going to have to be looked at going forward."
Among the players supporting the compacted league fixtures list are Kilkenny ace Henry Shefflin and Dublin's Conal Keaney, who have been maintaining a watching brief in recent weeks due to their respective injuries.
Both players admired the increased competitiveness of the league this season, although Keaney noted: "In the past you could afford to struggle a little bit and start to pick up the points later in the league campaign. I would probably like to see a few more games involved - that would be good."