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PJ O'Mullan voices anger at 'unfair' play-off hurdle

By Declan Bogue

Antrim hurling manager PJ O'Mullan jnr has lamented the current play-off situation that faces the champions of Division 2A - with his side currently in pole position.

Under the rules, the top two teams play a final, before the winner meets the bottom side in Division 1B to try and earn promotion. O'Mullan believes that should have been addressed at last week's Congress in Carlow.

Ahead of tomorrow's trip to Mullingar to face Westmeath (2pm), he stated: "You have a situation now where you could go through the season unbeaten and win Division 2A, and then have to play another match. I don't see the need for a league final. You are going to be asked to play the bottom team from Division 1B.

"Winning the Christy Ring now has an added incentive, but I think the promotion from Division 2A to Division 1B, the team that wins the league should be promoted and the team that finishes bottom of 1B should be relegated."

In the past, this measure has allowed Antrim to maintain their 1B status, but O'Mullan maintains it is an unfair rule.

"Every league in the world has promotion and relegation," he said.

"It is a safety net for teams and this is the only league that it happens in. It doesn't happen in the football leagues and it is a ridiculous situation.

"From my point of view as manager, straight out I am saying it is wrong. Whether Antrim get promoted and it's there for them to benefit from next year, it's wrong, and I am saying it's wrong.

"It's not promoting hurling. What they are saying to the team in Division 2A is, 'we are going to make this really hard for you. If you win your league, we are going to give you another game'.

The Saffrons travel to Westmeath tomorrow with both sides looking to maintain their 100 per cent records.

"The last time the two teams met last year, Westmeath gave Antrim an awful hammering, we were beaten by 17 or 18 points," O'Mullan warned. "On top of that, they have beaten Wexford in the minor Championship. They are not standing still."

He also revealed the injury crisis facing Antrim, with Daniel McKernan, Tony McCloskey, Chris McGuinness and Conor McClelland out of contention.

"You add that to Shorty (Paul Shields) and take the five Cushendall lads who are missing, we are down 12 or 13 players. James Black and Darren Hamill are also struggling. I don't even think we will have 26 fit players, that's how bad it is," he said, before denying he might have to tog out himself. "Stranger things have happened! I don't think we would have much chance of promotion!"

ANTRIM (v Westmeath, NHL Div 2A): C O'Connell; O McFadden, N McAuley, C McKinley; S McCrory, Ciaran Johnston, B McFall; K McKernan, J McGreevy; S McCaughan, N McKenna, E McCloskey; Conor Johnston, L Watson, C Clarke

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