Sunday 30 April 2017

The 'Super 8' is coming into the All Ireland SFC in 2018 as hurling and football finals moved to August

Delegates assemble before the 2017 GAA Annual Congress at Croke Park, in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Delegates assemble before the 2017 GAA Annual Congress at Croke Park, in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

A major change to the latter stages of the All-Ireland senior football championships will apply from next year, following a Congress decision to replace the quarter-finals with two groups of four playing off in ‘round robin’ format.

The All-Ireland hurling and football finals will also have new dates with both brought forward to August.

Despite being opposed by the Gaelic Players’ Association (GPA), Congress voted on a 76-24 per cent majority to introduce the football ‘round robin’ on a three-year experimental basis from 2018.

Speakers from Galway, Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Kerry, Meath, Mayo, Monaghan, as well as former President, Sean Kelly and Connacht Council secretary, John Prenty backed the Central Council proposal, arguing that it would greatly enhance the latter stages of the championship.

Dermot Earley, newly-appointed GPA CEO, opposed the plan under a number of headings. He said that while there was an appetite for change, the GPA were unhappy over what it regarded as a lack of consultation with inter-county players.

He also argued that the proposal does nothing for so-called weaker counties, either in terms of their individual requirements or as a means of narrowing the gap between them and their stronger rivals.

Cork were the only county to speak against the motion, with Diarmuid O’Sullivan claiming it was unfair of players to ask them to play three big games in 15 days.

Director-General, Paraic Duffy rejected the GPA claim over a lack of consultation, pointing out that it had been debated at length over several months by county boards.

“We’re not proposing anything radical here. We have to be prepared to experiment with new ideas. We have absolutely nothing to lose by giving it a trial run as we can always change again if we think it’s not working,” he said.

If the ‘round robin’’ had been in operation last year the four provincial champions, Dublin, Galway, Tyrone and Kerry would have joined Tipperary, Clare, Donegal and Mayo to form two groups of four.

They would have played off on  a ‘round robin’ basis (one round in Croke Park, with each county also having one game). The top two in each group would have qualified for the semi-finals.

The Central Council proposal to complete the All-Ireland senior championships in August was carried on a 78-22 per cent majority. There was general agreement among Congress delegates that it would leave more room for club activity

Under the new arrangement, it’s likely that the football final will be played on the last Sunday in August, with the hurling decider two weeks earlier.

Cork were the only county to oppose the earlier finals, arguing that it would be more difficult to run off county championships, especially in dual counties.

Congress also voted on a 91-9 per cent majority to play extra-time in all championship games that finish level other than provincial finals and All-Ireland finals.

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