Cheddar Plunkett: CCCC risks ringing the "death knell" under new proposals

The former Laois hurling boss was speaking to Newstalk Sport's Oisin Langan

BY Oisin Langan 17:10 Wednesday 10 May 2017, 17:10 10 May 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

"Well if they change, we need to change" seems to the attitude of the hurling authorities with plans afoot for a round robin structure in both the Leinster and Munster Championships.

It all sounds exciting in principle what with the long wait between early provincial exits and the qualifiers gone and the addition of regular games spread round a tantalising prospect for all those who follow the superior... sorry small-ball game.

The new system actually sounds exciting with home and away games adding the possibility of great Championship days returning to Wexford Park, Walsh Park in Waterford, Pearse Stadium in Galway and depending on the opponent maybe Parnell Park.

An old ground, but still one that generates a great atmosphere and a venue where the Dubs perform better than they do in Croke Park. It could also mean that the criminally underused Nowlan Park will welcome more summer hurling.

One thing that has to be asked however is what happens to the developing counties in the new order? A pre-qualifier seems to be logistically difficult while expanding the groups to include all four of the current Leinster round robin sides. This would add too many games to the new system.

Parnell Park: A ground that that generates a great atmosphere and a venue where Dublin perform better than they do in Croke Park. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett has been there and done that with Laois for whom he played with distinction and managed back to a respectable level.

Under that woolly hat is a wealth of knowledge and invaluable experience, but this proposal worries him. The Portlaoise man says although it’s not clear how or if the developing counties group can link into the top group, this latest move could be the "death knell of hurling" in those counties.

Death Knell

Cheddar points out that until we get confirmation of what the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) are doing we’re talking in vacuum, but says if what is reported goes ahead he’d be very concerned.

"Look at it the through the eyes of an inter-county player in some of those counties. You’d have to ask yourself why are you committing so much of your life to training when the goal at the end of it is not to play anywhere near the top level," he said.

"We don’t know exactly what the proposals are but if that’s what it is it’s really the death knell of hurling in those counties."

Cheddar recognises the possible path to the top level but says even that may not be enough.

If the likes of Carlow, Westmeath, Laois, Antrim and Kerry are placed at the kids table of the great hurling wedding, then Cheddar can see the best players in those counties not losing interest in the sport, but becoming introspective in their approach.

"They’ll just concentrate on their club and that has been a problem on those counties in the past. They don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel so they concentrate on the club and the counties suffered greatly because of that.

"Good enough to compete?" asked Cheddar when I put it to him that counties have to prove they can mix it with the best. He quite fairly cites football where the worst come up against the best simply by being in the same provincial championship.

Former Laois hurling manager, Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett. Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

The Super 8 is also open to all who qualify but they all start in the same competition which is a point of difference in the hurling format if reports are accurate.

Another stark warning is that cutting off the top 10 from the rest will kill off hurling in the rest.

"The real thing we need to look at is the game itself. Do we just want the game to flourish in 10 counties that means the game dying in other counties?

"If we run a round robin or development championship it means you’re going to have lowered standard for those counties. Unless there's real access [to the round robin competition in the same season] then you’ll stay down."

Anyone who’s ever spoken hurling with 'Cheddar' Plunkett knows his passion for the game and his desire to see it thrive. A decent player and clever manager in his time, the Portlaoise man has suggestions on how to develop the game and cites Dublin as an example of how you can turn things around with the right coaching, structure and funding.

Change can be a good thing, but sometimes the only obvious option is to assess the ramifications. Most fans and players seem to want the structure to change. Even if it is only motivated by Super 8 jealously, this change is probably good.

However, the effects of change must be considered with the vulnerable needing protection. At this juncture Carlow, Antrim, Westmeath and Laois could all become contenders but that possibility will lessen if they’re left behind in the new structure.

GAA special congress, it’s over to you.


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