Promotion is pointless without proper structure

Next Saturday, Meath’s senior footballers take on Monaghan in the NFL Div. 3 final. Getting there represents a fair achievement in itself when you consider how poor they were in two of their three opening fixtures. It’s the county’s first appearance in a major final in senior football since the now infamous Leinster decider of 2010. In one sense, qualifying for the final and thus getting promotion will already declare this league campaign a success. But, having won four games on the trot, confidence will be high and a bit of silverware would leave them well set ahead of the championship.

Meath hurler Stephen Clynch
Now spare a thought for the county’s senior hurlers. For the second year in a row, they had a very successful run in the ‘group’ stages of the NHL and qualified for the final thereof. Difference being that in their case only the winning team goes up and unfortunately – as against Kildare last season – defeat was again the lot against London. So, essentially, all their good early season form counts for nil.
Such a situation is ludicrously unfair. Many people more influential than this wordsmith hold that view as well. Yet, once more, it appears nothing will be done about it. Even though it’s glaringly obvious something needs to be. Having said that – as with football – there’s a central power base in hurling and if it doesn’t suit some of those therein there may well be change yet.
Whether in hurling or football, it’s hard to fathom what exactly the problem with four straight divisions is. Indeed, in that regard the lesson seems to have been learned in football. All that needs to happen now is for the absolutely unnecessary semi finals in the top division to be done away with.
Back to matters at hand however. Meath’s hurlers are being cheated by the current league format in the game. The same goes for Limerick. In fact, their situation is even more farcical. This spring, themselves and Dublin resided in the rather daftly christened Div. 1B. It was the second tier in all but name. And it was blatantly obvious too that the two teams mentioned were always going to be streets ahead of all of their rivals.
So it proved, and both teams served up a mighty Saturday evening clash in Thurles a few weeks back. At the end of which, the long serving Joey Boland struck an inspirational winner and guaranteed Dublin a second piece of silverware under Anthony Daly. That, and the ‘reward’ of a semi final clash in Div. 1 proper against Tipperary.
Utter nonsense. For one thing, good as Dublin are – they’ve made real progress under the great Clare man – they are not at the same level as Tipperary. Very few are, and so, the metropolitans ended up taking the expected drubbing against the Premier County. As bad as that in itself was, it won’t have done their confidence levels any good going forward either.
Throughout the country, there is undoubtedly great work being done at various levels to promote and develop hurling. Promotion is pointless without proper structure however. No matter how it might seem, Dublin have received very little in terms of tangible reward for their consistency so far this season. That’s the case to an even greater extent with the cases of Meath and Limerick.
While the drubbing Dublin got will, as stated a while ago, in one way have done them no good, looking at things from a different angle would suggest that it’s only by playing against a better quality of opposition that teams will at least go some way towards getting to the same level as those opponents.

As things currently stand, though, counties outside of those that – no matter how much certain people mightn’t like it – must be termed the elite – are not getting a fair crack of the whip. These counties deserve better. Hopefully eventually common sense will prevail and a fairer system will system will be put in place. In GAA these things don’t happen in a hurry though!

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