Friday 9 December 2016

Top flight expansion on cards in hurling league revamp

Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30

14 July 2015; In attendance at the launch of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 is Uachtar?n Chumann L?thchleas Gael Aog?n ? Fearghail. Dicksboro GAA Club, Kilkenny. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
14 July 2015; In attendance at the launch of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Series 2015 is Uachtar?n Chumann L?thchleas Gael Aog?n ? Fearghail. Dicksboro GAA Club, Kilkenny. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

The GAA will explore a new hurling league format this weekend when its Management Committee and Central Council discuss proposals for change that have been submitted.

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An increased number of teams in the top flight, currently Division 1A, appears to be favoured, with a decision to be made as to whether it will increase to seven or eight teams.

For the last three years Division 1A and 1B have had six teams and that has led to some 'cut-throat' matches.

But managers have bemoaned the lack of opportunity to 'run-in' more players in that environment, hence the mood for change among counties.

Hurling's 2020 committee, which looked at all aspects of the game, reported in January that there was a "general preference" for an eight-team first division but didn't make any concrete proposal.

A raft of ideas that have been received to restructure the football championships do not have the same immediacy and it is likely to be November before any consensus is established, GAA president Aogan O Fearghail suggested.

But he said the strong feeling coming across from submissions made is that the provincial championship should be retained.

"My focus has been on the hurling because it is more immediate. I'm not kicking the football proposals down the road but we're not really going to take a decision on them until November," he said.

"I'm delighted that everybody, including the Gaelic Players Association and our counties, have submitted quite substantial proposals.

"There are a lot of variations in qualifiers but, on a preliminary look at them, the vast majority of the people want the retention of the provincial football championships. That's clear to me by observation.

"It looks strongly that the counties are comfortable with the provincial structures.

"A lot of counties feel that perhaps counties in Division 4 of the league in particular would favour a different structure for them at qualifiers stage. And we would certainly be open to that."

O Fearghail accepted that splitting the qualifiers into section A and B to help with the securing dates for club fixtures in counties has been "complicated" but the benefits have been worth it.

"It has made a difference for counties in knowing when they are and aren't playing and that frees up situations," he said.

"I'm not sure if counties avail of that and we'll focus on that, because the biggest issue with fixtures is still within counties.

"We have created a fairly good structure at national level for counties to identify when they should be able to play or not."

The president also outlined the reasons for delay in the installation of Hawk-Eye in Semple Stadium, where so many big hurling matches are being played at this stage of the season.

"The problem is there is no permanent screen. That's the issue. Camera issues are sorted. It will happen, maybe with or without a big screen," he said.

Irish Independent

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