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OPINION: We must ensure that there is something meaningful to play for going into Round 5

I write this because I want skin and hair flying in our club championships from Round 1 and I want the games in Round 5 to have something more at stake than just sorting out positions.

Kevin Regan
July 25, 2023

This weekend sees the final round of games take place in the group stages of the Carlow Senior Hurling Championship.

I'm giving out about the current structure since Round 1 and have done over the past few years to such an extent where Joe and Stevie have left the country because they just can't listen to me harping on about it any longer!

The reality is that St Mullins are guaranteed to top the group, MLR are guaranteed second place and the tie between Bagenalstown Gaels and Ballinkillen will effectively sort out who gets to avoid St Mullins in the Semi Finals. Meeting MLR isn't exactly Bully's star prize for the winners either mind you!

I'm fully aware that each and every Championship structure will have it's pros and cons. I also know that you will never keep everyone happy.

But there's no reason why we can't strive to create a structure which can minimise the scope for complaint among the punters, but more so the players and managements.

In my view there simply can't be a situation where a team has the ability to target games or in some cases experiment during a Championship.

It's a great thing for the likes of St Mullins and MLR to be able to do if they need to because they are that good at the minute.

But what could we do to dangle a few carrots to ensure that every game has to be approached with absolute full throttle in mind and each team has something meaningful to aim for?

Option 1 would be to put whoever finishes top of the group straight into the final.

It creates an opportunity for players to recover when the other teams are still knocking the shite out of each other trying to get there.

That's the reward for finishing first. I don't buy the argument of momentum breaks, I think freshness trumps all in this regard especially with a game every weekend in the lead up leaving little or no time for recovery.

Momentum is a mindset!

Quarter finals would be introduced where 2nd plays 5th and 3rd plays 4th. Then the two winners would play a semi final with the winner progressing to meet the team who went straight through to the final. It should create a situation where every team has something to play for going into Round 5.

Option 2 is to put the top two teams seeded into semi finals after Round 5. Then 3rd plays 6th and 4th plays 5th in the quarters with the winners going on to meet the 2 seeded teams in the semi finals. The downfall here is that no team loses out after 5 rounds of action which probably shouldn't happen.

Option 3 is a much simpler alternative. Take away head to head and rely on score difference only.

Look at Naomh Eoin for example. Yes they have only won 1 game, but the biggest losing margin they had before this weekend was 7 points to Ballinkillen and their score difference is +3.

Bagenalstown and Ballinkillen have both defeated them but Naomh Eoin's score difference is better.

If they were to turn St Mullins over this weekend they would go through if this format was in place with Ballinkillen on +1 and Bagenalstown -22 on the basis that there was to be a winner in that game. A draw there would see both Ballinkillen the Town through even if Naomh Eoin were to win under this structure.

And the flip side of the argument is literally the fact that they haven't been good enough to beat either Ballinkillen or Bagenalstown so therefore they shouldn't go through on that basis.

But it's a shame that they haven't something to play for this weekend after clearly making progress this year performance wise.

I write this article because I want skin and hair flying in our club championships from Round 1 and I want the games in Round 5 to have something more at stake than just sorting out positions.

It would give our games another edge to them and might even get a few more people in through the turnstiles.

The reality under the current format is that more often than not it's mostly a case where only 1 spot is up for grabs and now this year we don't even have that.

It's unfortunate that we only have the 6 teams and there are levels within the 6 also, hence the mentioning of different carrots above giving teams a chance to take down a big gun in a one off game.

But who's to say that won't happen in this years semi finals anyway!

That's the joys of it folks!