The round robin stage of the Leinster Hurling Championship has been criticised by Antrim manager Kevin Ryan.
As part of the Leinster Championship, five counties – Antrim, Carlow, Laois, London and Westmeath - are grouped together in a league format where every team plays each other once.
The top two teams in the league will advance to the Leinster quarter-final.
Ryan told RTÉ Sport that he did not approve of the system, and said it made for too short a gap between League and Championship.
“[They’re] not the games we think we should be having right now, and it's the same for Carlow and Laois,” Ryan said. “I don’t really approve of this whole round robin thing, but it’s there and we have to deal with it.”
“There’s no time between League and Championship. We basically went straight from the League into the Championship; a two-week gap to prepare for this. That’s no way to prepare for a Leinster Championship.”
Ryan said that other teams were able to go and spend weeks together, or allow their players to return to club action, while the round robin system did not allow this.
“It has a serious impact on the League hurling in Antrim,” he said. “It’s impossible to get a round in.”
"[Antrim had] a two-week gap to prepare for this. That’s no way to prepare for a Leinster Championship" - Kevin Ryan
Ryan backed Antrim to compete with the teams who are not in the round system.
“We need to be playing the really good teams to be coming on and to improve. I would believe that ourselves or Carlow would put it up to a reasonable amount of the teams who aren’t in this.
“One of us are going to end up not getting the chance to play Leinster Championship properly. I just think it’s a bit unfair, looking at results over the last year or two, looking at year results.
“If Carlow don’t through now... they had Offaly beat here last year, they had Wexford to the pin of their collar the year before. I just think it’s unfair.”
Ryan's views were shared by former All-Ireland winners Joe Dooley and Tom Dempsey.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport ahead of the second round of games, Dooley suggested that Antrim were not the only team who could have similar complaints.
“Laois could say the same thing,” said Dooley. “Laois had a very, very good run in Division 1B.”
Dooley said there was huge pressure on Carlow and Westmeath, who lost and drew their first-round games, respectively.
They faced being “nearly as good as gone out of the Championship” if they failed to get results in the second round of matches, he said.
“It’s very early and it came very early after the national hurling league finishing,” Dooley said. “They’re going to play four Sundays in a row, and it’s a lot of the pressure on very early in the year.”
Dempsey said Laois, Carlow, and Antrim deserved direct entry into the Leinster Championship.
“They deserve a second chance [should they not get out of the round robin series],” Dempsey said. I think that we need to [...] find some kind of a way of getting those teams into the Leinster Championship.”
Only two teams were going to come out of the round robin, Dempsey said. “Do any of those three teams deserve to not be in the Leinster Championship? We’ve invited Antrim into it and we’re not giving them a full run at it.”
Dempsey highlighted Carlow’s high level of performace over recent years, and said the format of the Allianz Hurling League, whereby the side that finished bottom of Division 1B played off against the winner of Division 2A, militated against the likes of Carlow, Laois and Antrim.
Instead, he said, Offaly should have been relegated, with Kerry being promoted.