Tuesday 24 April 2018

Carlow to return with new qualifier reforms

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Carlow will make adjustments to their motion seeking reform to the qualifiers and come back next year in the belief that it is still the best option available to the GAA.

Carlow secretary Gerard Lennon said they were buoyed by the support of some 40 per cent of Congress delegates and believes that with some changes they can win enough support to replace the current model.

The Carlow motion gained much more traction than a Roscommon call for a 'B' Championship with 16 teams. The GAA's own motion for the establishment of an eight-team 'B' Championship didn't even got off the ground after it became apparent that it had no support.

Tipperary, Dublin, Westmeath and Leitrim are among the counties thought to have backed Carlow's plan to establish four different qualifier tiers based on the previous year's provincial championships and league placings.

Tier one teams would be the eight provincial finalists, tier two teams would be the eight beaten provincial semi-finalists, tier three and tier four teams would be indexed to league positions and they would play off the first qualifier with the winners then playing tier two teams and those winners in a final qualifier round against the top-tier teams.

The basis for the change is that there would be fewer one-sided matches because the tiers would standardise counties better.

The problem, as pointed out last weekend, is that a team could win a provincial title but already be out of the All-Ireland championship because seedings are based on the previous year and the expectancy is that the first qualifier would be played before the provincial finals are settled.

"It's something we're looking at. There was a feeling that if we addressed that we could really get it over the line," said Lennon.

"We believe it is the best option if we can overcome that anomaly. If we can find a way for teams in provincial finals to remain in the All-Ireland championship we feel it is worth putting to Congress again next year."

The Gaelic Players Association have called for a "more effective process to bring about the change required" to be stabilised after they outlined in a statement that players directly involved in an eight-team championship would boycott it if it was introduced at Congress.

Meanwhile, four-time All-Ireland final referee Pat McEnaney (below) says there has been an "unwritten rule" in operation for some time to protect the high fielder in Gaelic football.

McEnaney, who chaired the national referees' committee for three years between 2012 and 2015, believes referees will cope easily with the introduction of the mark which has split opinion since it was passed into rule at Congress last weekend.

"It will take time and a period of adjustment to know when a player is going to take a mark or not. But it will be handy enough," he predicted.

"Quite often the free has been given for the catcher anyway," he said.

"One of the things we (referees' committee that he chaired) sought to do was to protect the high fielder and I felt we did that. The catcher has regularly got the benefit of the doubt. I suppose you could call it an unwritten rule."

McEnaney made the observation that the GAA has rarely, if ever, gone back on a rule it has passed, especially a playing rule.

"I'd say the handpass is the only time it has happened and my belief was that the fist pass should always have been stuck with," he said. "But the GAA has never gone back on cards, sidelines and frees from the hands. All of the changes made were persisted with and worked."


Two of McEnaney's most prominent ex-refereeing colleagues have been detailed for the two big Ulster Division 2 clashes on Saturday night.

David Coldrick will take charge of Tyrone and Derry in Omagh, while Maurice Deegan will officiate in Kingspan Breffni Park for Cavan and Armagh.

Five players were sent off when Cavan and Armagh met in the McKenna Cup in January and with the sides, with just one win each from three league games so far, due to meet in the championship later this year there is a lot on the line.

When they met in a previous championship encounter in 2014 a row erupted just as the players were preparing to take their positions behind the band for the parade, resulting in five subsequent suspensions, three for Cavan and €5,000 fines for each county board.

Tyrone and Derry has always been a fractious rivalry. New Derry manager Damien Barton is currently serving a two-month ban as a result of his involvement in an altercation in the McKenna Cup final that they lost after extra-time.

Tyrone finished that game with 13 men after the dismissals of Cathal McCarron (straight red) and Ronan McNamee (two yellows). Derry's Brendan Rogers sustained a severe facial wound that required 14 stitches after a collision with Tiernan McCann.

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