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Antrim Sympathy For 'Joke' Kerry Munster Hurling Championship Situation

Antrim Sympathy For 'Joke' Kerry Munster Hurling Championship Situation
By PJ Browne Updated

Kerry and Antrim are competing for the same trophy at Croke Park this Saturday: The Joe McDonagh Cup. Though, the prizes they will receive for winning differ greatly.

For Antrim, it will be automatic promotion to the Leinster Hurling Championship, replacing Laois in the mix. If Kerry win, they do not get promoted automatically. Instead, they will have to beat Tipperary - the bottom team in this year's Munster Championship - in a promotion/relegation playoff if they are to take the step up to hurling's top tier.

"If I was from Kerry and I won on Saturday, I'd nearly refuse to play Tipperary," says Antrim centre-back Eoghan Campbell.

"It's an absolute joke really that they would have to play Tipperary in a relegation battle when they could just go into it (Munster) to make up six and make it even with Leinster. That's really the bottom line.

"I don't see why they should have to do it. Obviously, like, they're probably not going to refuse to play it and a day against Tipperary...and Tipperary are probably reeling from the performances they've had, they're probably going to have a break and Kerry will be going into it a bit sharper but they shouldn't have to play it really.

"They don't want one of the big teams down. I suppose if Kerry win and they had to play Tipperary, say Tipperary beat them, that's not progress for Kerry. When we were only starting off on our journey, going up to the Leinster championship, or even into Division 1, you need them games. To be honest, you need to be able to take the beatings as well.

"Four, five, six years ago, we were getting beaten regularly by 15, 20 points but it's learning from that and if Kerry don't get up they're not going to learn. If they win on Saturday they deserve to get up and be competing with Limerick, Clare, Waterford. It's only going to make them better. It's not fair for them really."

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1 June 2022; Eoghan Campbell of Antrim, left, and Eric Leen of Kerry during the Joe McDonagh Cup Final media event at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

This has been a point of contention for Kerry since the inaugural Joe McDonagh Cup in 2018. Though, with Kerry losing the last two second tier finals, they've never had to cross the playoff bridge.

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"It's out of our control," says Kerry defender Eric Leen, who played in the 2020 and 2021 finals.

"When we can't do much about it, there's not much point wasting energy thinking about it."

Leen adds that "there would be nothing wrong with" a change where Kerry would become the Munster Championship's sixth team rather than replacing one of Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary or Waterford.

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'Kerry have to play in Munster'

"We want to be playing those big games," he says.

"Even having a qualifier there with either Wexford or Cork, seriously looking forward to that as well. If we do have to play Tipperary in what's considered a relegation playoff it would be another great day out and we'll thrive on trying to beat them."

Leens know it "might be tough for a couple of years" for Kerry if they were to join the Munster elite.

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"Are you going to improve if you're not playing against the best?" he says.

"There has to come a stage where... We're a team in Munster and have to play in Munster. We want to be up there playing against the best and we'll find out where we are then."

See Also: Boyle Took Meandering Route To Captain New York In The Tailteann Cup

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