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Shake-up is on horizon

ON first inspection, the news of "yet another" proposed revamp to the league and championship structures in hurling may cause some to throw their eyes to heaven. Here we go... again! More tinkering!

And sure, come September, won't we still have black-and-amber ribbons bedecking the Liam MacCarthy Cup?

This, though, would be unfair on the latest plan of action unveiled by the Central Competitions Control Committee, which will be debated by Central Council tomorrow fortnight.

Given that the championship proposals will have minimal impact on the elite counties, much of their concern will probably focus on what happens to the league in 2014 - on that score the ball is now in the court of Central Council, which will debate three options put forward yesterday.

But the CCCC has focused far more attention on those counties caught in limbo between the two top tiers - counties who probably see themselves as too good for the Christy Ring Cup, yet who are clearly out of their depth against the best.

This was graphically underlined only last summer by results, such as Dublin 3-23 Laois 1-7 in Leinster, and Limerick 8-26 Antrim 1-15 in the qualifiers.

Part of the problem is that the Liam MacCarthy field has expanded in recent years with no relegation, while several Ring Cup winners took up the promotion option. Now Croke Park wants to reverse that trend while incorporating the principle of "win your way up" - you can still gain promotion but only by proving you're good enough.

In a nutshell, they want to streamline the Liam MacCarthy championship from 15 teams to 13 counties by 2016 - and they would do so by altering the Leinster SHC through the introduction in 2014 of a "qualifying group" for Antrim, Laois, Carlow, Westmeath and London.

These counties would initially play on a round-robin basis (guaranteeing each side four matches against similarly-rated opposition).

The top two would progress to Leinster championship quarter-finals; the bottom side would be automatically relegated; while the second-last team would play off against that year's Ring Cup winners for the right to play in the elite grade the following summer.

Similiar structures would govern promotion/relegation between the other championship tiers - namely the Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups.

Whatever league format is adopted for 2014 only requires Central Council approval, whereas the proposed championship amendment must go before Congress (presuming it gets the green light from Central Council).

After so much previous tinkering, the GAA is determined that this latest revamp can last for years. "Constant change to our hurling championships is not helpful; there needs to be certainty in relation to their future. While the CCCC would recommend a review every three years, we feel this should be with respect to the relevant strengths of the counties involved at each level, rather than necessarily the structures in place," a Croke Park statement outlined.


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