On Sunday, the final games of the round-robin Leinster hurling championship were played which resulted in both Laois and Westmeath progressing into the Leinster quarter-final stages.
The draw, which was held on Sunday meant that Laois will play Wexford at home while Westmeath will host Offaly in the Leinster quarter-finals. In the other quarter-final, Dublin will face Galway in a game that was already in place.
The round-robin is a structure in place for two of the weaker counties in Leinster to progress into the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship but certainly, the structure is questionable and can be deemed unfair.
From a Laois perspective, they should feel extremely begrudged by the system. They played three vital and tough games against Westmeath, Meath and Kerry in the preliminary competition and topped the table after remaining unbeaten throughout. However, the result of winning the preliminary round-robin was a game against the in-form team of Wexford.
When comparing that to the achievements of Westmeath in the round-robin, eyebrows should be raised. Westmeath qualified for the quarter-final stages after only winning one game against Meath, yet they were drawn against the completely out-of-form, stagnating and struggling Offaly – a draw that Laois would have absolutely relished.
Although Laois will not fear a game against Davy Fitzgerald’s Yellowbellies, the draw is certainly a cruel one for them considering their achievements in the preliminary competition, with fans reacting to what they see as an unjust system.
Laois hurlers 3/3 in the qualifiers, top the group and get Wexford. Westmeath win and sneak into quarter final face Offaly. Cruel draw #gaa
— Hawkeye Sidekick (@hawkeyesidekick) May 14, 2017
Of course, one could argue that it’s really just the luck of the draw, but this particular system should not be about luck; it should be rewarding for the county who finishes first and should not be of more value to the county who finishes second, in this case, Westmeath.
The open draw such as today does nothing to reward the team topping the group, giving them no advantage over the side that finishes second.
To be fair, the draw was introduced this year to combat a predetermined system like last year, where Westmeath were similarly ‘punished’ for topping the group with a quarter-final against Galway, while second-placed Offaly were rewarded with a clash against Laois.
Perhaps a seeding based on League results would be the best way to determine which is the more favourable quarter-final for the group winner in future.
Jason Redmond, Pundit Arena