Martin Breheny: What would mice make of hurling’s crazy league structure?
By Martin Breheny
Wednesday April 04 2012
SO far, there has been no comment from the mouse community on the call by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to ban cheese advertising on TV.
But then, they may have thought it was an April Fool’s joke. Even slow-learning mice would understand that there’s something bizarre about a Government quango, whose task is to monitor broadcasting affairs, taking the Nanny State an idiotic step further.
The BAI membership wouldn’t be readily identified by its expertise in nutritional matters, yet it sanctimoniously demands that cheese, a prime product in one of the country’s largest industries, be removed from TV ads before 6.0 to prevent children becoming cheddar addicts.
As Squeaky Mouse might say: “EEK OFF!”
Besides, he would expect that the BAI will be told to return to whatever irrelevancies they have been engaged in up to now and let everybody else get on with surviving in the real world.
Mind you, if he wanders into GAA land, he might wonder if its competition structures are being run by the BAI.
As of 4.0 last Sunday, such outstanding hurlers as John Mullane, Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and Shane Dooley were guaranteed only two inter-county games for the remainder of the year. At least, they — and their Waterford and Offaly colleagues — got some inter-county games, unlike the Loughgiel and Coolderry contingents.
They were occupied with their clubs until St Patrick’s Day, so such fine talents as Brian Carroll, Cathal Parlon, Liam Watson and Eddie McCloskey haven’t played any inter-county hurling this year. And since counties are guaranteed only two games in the All-Ireland championship, that may be the sum total of their year’s exposure.
Is there any other sporting organisation in the world which would allow that to happen? It’s not as if Waterford, Offaly and Antrim, the three Division 1 counties who have no further league games, are the only victims of the ridiculous fixtures structure, as several others will have only one more league game.
The same will apply to the majority of football teams after next Sunday, but at least they will have had a minimum of seven league outings. There’s also greater uniformity in football, which operates a two-up, two-down policy across all divisions.
It’s simple and fair, reflecting how a county did over an extended test. The head-to-head rule which, if two teams finish on the same number of points, decides placings is questionable, while allowing four Division 1 teams into the semi-finals stretches the qualification criteria but, those apart, the NFL system works.
The only real drawback is that so much action becomes squeezed into two months, but that’s part of a wider issue.
In contrast, the NHL is a shambles. There have been so many changes over the years that the competition has a serious identity issue which remains unresolved.
Cutting the guaranteed number of games for counties in the top half of the pyramid from seven to five made no sense, especially when accompanied by the one-up/one-down system between Divisions 1A and 1B.
Since there’s only one promotion slot from 1B, several traditional hurling counties will always be in the lower grouping, where they won’t get a chance to play the top powers.
Is it good for the game if Offaly and Wexford rarely play Kilkenny or Tipperary in the league?
Then, there’s the question of fairness, or rather the lack of it. Clare topped 1B after winning all five games, leaving them three points ahead of Limerick. It was an excellent campaign by Clare but their three-point advantage counts for nothing as they must face Limerick to settle promotion and the Division 1 semi-final place.
At the wrong end of 1A, Galway must play Dublin in a relegation play-off despite winning three points more. It’s even more marked in 1B, where Wexford finished four points ahead of Laois yet must still play off against Teddy McCarthy’s crew to decide who drops to 2A, territory which would benefit neither.
The new format is in its first season but is so fundamentally flawed that it can’t have a long-term future. Better to bin it immediately and start again with a blank page.
– Martin Breheny