2018 is sure to be an exciting year for the hurling championship as we see the biggest change in the sport since the introduction of the qualifiers.
A round-robin system is being introduced for the provincial championships, meaning that the era of counties playing just two championship games in an entire season is over.
Waterford manager Derek McGrath says that the public should get behind the change and not be sceptical:
“The one thing I hope happens is there’s a certain narrative that will not pre-empt the championship but almost come beforehand. I imagine it’s ye’re job (in the media) to put forward those narratives which is: Will attendances be down? Will there be a dead rubber game? Those things that ye think of.
“I think if the narrative could be an ingrained attitude that we’re all as GAA people going to embrace the league and championship structure and then we all learn from it.
“It’s like going into a comedian and not being willing to laugh. I think some people if people have their hands in their pockets beforehand and say, ‘It’s a disaster, numbers are down.”
Waterford will have a particularly tough schedule in the Munster Championship. Because of a first round bye, they open their campaign on May 27 – and then are out on four consecutive weekends.
“The sticking point for me is the timing of it.
“We played our first championship match last year on the June 18.
We’re playing possibly our last championship match this year on the June 17 after four matches. I think if it was stretched a little bit into July in terms of the round robin series and if there was the possibility of a cross-provincial round robin.
“Last year we were beaten by Cork in the first round of the championship and then we knew we’d be playing a team from Leinster.
“I don’t know if that’s possible but that’s all into the future. That’s something for you guys (in the media) to worry (about) and debate.”
Waterford open their championship campaign in Ennis when they take on 2013 All-Ireland champions Clare.
Of more immediate concern is the Allianz National Hurling League, where McGrath’s men, who are without some key players through injury, host Wexford.
Derek McGrath was speaking in Croke Park at the launch of the Allianz National Hurling League