Tipp look for five Hurling League games

By Shane Brophy

Tipperary have indicated their preference for a five match National Hurling League campaign when the inter-county season gets underway next month.

Off the back of the government announcement last week of a return to inter-county GAA training from April 19th, County Boards were issued with a proposal from Croke Park with two options to choose from in terms of the length of the National Hurling Leagues.

Option one which Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is in favour of is for the league to be run off as planned with the 12 division 1 teams divided into two groups of six with each county guaranteed five matches. The games will be played over five consecutive weekends with the top team from each group meeting in the final, with the bottom team in each group playing off for relegation. The caveat for this option is counties will have just a three-week training build-up with the league beginning on May 8/9.

Option 2 was the 12 teams divided into three groups of four teams with each team getting three matches, but the teams would get a four-week training lead-in ahead of a May 15/16 start.

If a five-game National League campaign is the preference of the majority of counties, it would mean the league concluding on the weekend of 12-13 June, with a guaranteed two-week gap for all counties to the start of the championship. With the hurling championship set to be run on the same knockout/qualifier format as last year over an eight-week period, it would see an All-Ireland final on the weekend of 14-15 August.

The make-up of the National Hurling League groups remains to be seen as to whether the GAA will structure it on a regional basis, similar to what they are doing in the football leagues where Tipperary are grouped with Wicklow, Offaly, and Limerick in Division 3 South while Derry, Cavan, Fermanagh, and Longford in the northern region.

However, with the majority of the division 1 hurling league teams located in the south of the country, there is much of a muchness in terms of travel and based on the 2020 league, Liam Sheedy’s charges would have home games against Galway and Cork with trips to Waterford, Westmeath, and All-Ireland champions Limerick.

However, the one county that does have a travel issue are newly promoted Antrim, managed by former Tipperary All-Ireland winning goalkeeper Darren Gleeson, who has also stated his preference for a five match National Hurling League campaign.

“From an Antrim perspective the five games would mean a lot more exposure to a higher level,” admitted the Portroe clubman.

“It would give us a better chance to maintain a status if there is promotion/relegation involved.”

From a Tipperary point of view, he feels the five-game campaign would be more beneficial for his clubmate Liam Sheedy in terms of giving more players a chance to put their hand up for the championship.

“If Liam (Sheedy) and the lads want to look at blooding some players and keeping more of the established lads fresh for the championship, three (games) could be restrictive for them so they might prefer the five games,” Gleeson added.

The GAA have stated they will release their inter-county fixtures schedule towards the end of this week, from where county boards can also begin planning their schedule for club games.

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