The league phase of the Allianz Hurling League concluded this afternoon, a week behind schedule.

The knockout phase begins next week, with Waterford facing Kilkenny, while Galway take on Wexford in venues which are yet to be determined. 

The 2020 edition was the first league campaign under its new, more relaxed structure. The consensus emerged among the inter-county managerial fraternity that the old structure, or the old Division 1A to be precise, was a bit too cut-throat for the winter and early spring and a new format was devised. 

The new format has certainly addressed the old complaints but has sparked fresh grumbles that it's too low stakes to excite punters and a bit too lacking in jeopardy. 

Speaking on League Sunday on RTÉ 2, hurling analyst Donal Óg Cusack acknowledged the league was less intense in its new guise but he questioned whether that was a bad thing. 

"Is that not what the league should be? It's your secondary competition. Look at it from a playing point of view. The skills are no less, the players are enjoying it, they're expressing themselves. 

"It does suit management. You can blood players. You can use to get ready for the championship.

"Who are the other key stakeholders? The media, they don't seem to be talking any less about the game. If you judge by the amount of podcasts that are out there talking about it. 

"The crowds? I don't know the exact numbers but I don't think they're down. The interest is still there. 

"I just think we need to be careful. The league is there as a secondary competition."