Hurling and camogie

Controversial Ulster club hurling rule changed from five to three years

The Middletown players celebrate after Sunday's Ulster Club IHC final win over Lavey, landing the intermediate title in their first year back at the grade following their 2011 success. Picture by Cliff Donaldson.
Neil Loughran

THE controversial rule which prevents the winners of Ulster’s junior and intermediate club hurling championships from competing at that grade for five years has been changed to three years.

On Tuesday night the Ulster Council’s Competitions Control Committee voted to amend the timescale, with a number of clubs across Ulster expressing the belief that five years was simply too long.

Indeed, there have already been calls for the new three-year term to be cut further, with Geoffrey Laverty – manager of 2016 Ulster intermediate champions Cloughmills – claiming one year was “more than enough”.

His St Brigid’s side conquered Ulster for the first time 12 months ago but, after making the step up to senior level, the gulf in class was clear to see as they lost by 33 points to Cushendall in the opening round of the Antrim championship.

In Tuesday’s Irish News Laverty admitted he feared for the future of the small north Antrim club, who have no underage teams coming through, unless the rule was changed.

Under the new arrangement they would be allowed to compete in the 2020 Ulster intermediate championship, if they managed to win their county title, but the Cloughmills boss feels this is still too long.

“We’re not happy with that,” he said.

“Three years is still no good to us or a lot of clubs – it’s just crazy. One year is fair, it’s the decent thing to do, to go up for a year.

“But we fully accept we’re an intermediate club; we just want to play our level. This is in no way presuming we would win the Antrim title in that period because there’s nothing between all the clubs.

“It’s just that we want our club to be given the chance to play at our level in Ulster if the opportunity arises, because last year was brilliant. Going into Ulster and going on the run we did was fantastic.

“Everybody gets behind you, and it really promotes and really strengthens your club.

“The way things are at the minute, it’s like saying to Slaughtneil after last Sunday ‘right guys, that’s it, finished, you’re not allowed back into Ulster’.

“It wouldn’t happen.”

Laverty has been in touch with other hurling clubs inside Antrim and throughout Ulster since Tuesday, and feels there is enough support across the board for a one-year rule.

He continued: “My phone hasn’t stopped since the article went in on Tuesday, it’s gone mad. I had calls from other clubs and things just started to go into overdrive.

“They [the Ulster Council] know it’s broken. I’d love one of those guys to come out here for one day, even for one hour, and I’ll walk them through the club and then they would see.

“You know, you now have a situation where Lavey, one of the biggest clubs in Ulster, and Ballycastle, a big strong hurling club now in the second division, can play in Ulster next year but Cloughmills and Creggan can’t. Surely that puts it into perspective.

“Other good intermediate clubs, it will only hit them when they win an Ulster and they’re in our position, because suddenly you’re in no man’s land. We’re not good enough for the top tier, and there’s such a big step.

“We have 10 days to get a motion into the Antrim County Board and then the clubs will vote on it at a later point. But three years is still too long.”

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