If you thought from the headline that this would be about the Waterford County Board and/or Michael Ryan, you’d be wrong. I’m saving that one for my gig with Tramore Hinterland. This means it’ll be out of date by the time anyone (with the emphasis on ‘one’) gets to read it.
No, this will be about the people who organise the National Hurling League, or the ‘AHL’ as it seems to be officially known – I was watching the score updates on RTÉ’s website last week wondering how they could be so dopey as to label the football equivalent as the Australian Football League. These people rejigged the format of the NHL last year to the near-universal fury of everyone. I wasn’t one of those people, reasoning that the League is inherently messy and since no format is going to be acceptable to everyone you might as well just grin and bear any changes that come along.
What I didn’t realise until this week – and I must confess, the information was out there if I’d bothered to look – was that the bottom two teams will play each other in a play-off to see who gets relegated. This is bonkers. Quite apart from the obvious-with-hindsight fiasco that might see Dublin play Waterford in a dead rubber at Fraher Field before having to meet again in a play-off, it should have been obvious-with-foresight in such a small division that you could have a team cast adrift at the bottom playing a team who were separated from a group of teams with the same amount of points by a handful of scoring difference points. Now that team finds themselves having to face up to a play-off where anything can happen – and usually does.
It’s not as if there’s no precedent for this kind of thing. Clare ‘won’ Division 2 in the 2010 League only to have to turn around and play Wexford for the right to play in Division 1 the following year, and duly lost. That same year Waterford ‘won’ Division 4 of the NFL but lost to Limerick in the final. It didn’t matter much to Waterford though as we still got promoted. Can you imagine the rage there would have been in the county had Waterford been told that sorry, butyou haven’t done enough to have a shot at Division 3 because you lost one match at the very end? It’s not right, and I say all this while fully cognisant that the county most likely to benefit from this year’s setup is Waterford. It’s imperative that we show how broken this system by winning that play-off. It’s the decent thing to do.