Championship plan could end in tiers for football's weakest
Counties who finish the upcoming Allianz Football League in Division 4 will be refused entry to the All-Ireland senior football qualifiers, if a motion to GAA Congress in Carlow next month is successful, and will instead play in a new B Championship.
The motion is being put forward by the Association's Central Council, after it was agreed at a meeting yesterday afternoon.
But the Clare football manager Colm Collins, whose side won promotion from Division 4 in 2014 after a long time in the bottom tier, has expressed doubts about the proposal.
"I don't think it will work," he told the Sunday Independent. "I think if you are going to have any meaningful B Championship you are going to have to have more than eight teams in it. All the proposals are based on the provincial championships remaining intact. If you are going to have any real change then the provincial championships have to be changed in some shape or form."
Under the proposals all counties will take part in their provincial championships and those who are barred from the qualifiers may still gain entry the following year by winning the new All-Ireland B Championship, a knock-out competition involving teams in the bottom tier of the National League.
Under the reform proposals, which need a two-thirds majority to be passed at Congress, the winners of the provincial championships qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals, with the losers of the provincial finals playing in round three of the qualifiers.
The 16 teams who fail to reach the provincial final and who are not eligible for the B Championship will play in round one of the qualifiers, which will be an open draw.
Eight winners of round one progress to round two, and round three will contain the four winners from round two and four provincial final losers. The winners of that round then face the provincial winners in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. In rounds one and two of the qualifiers, the team from the lower division will have home advantage.
A number of counties will also submit other motions to Congress relating to proposed structural changes to the senior football championship.
Following circulation of a discussion document on player burnout in November, and meetings with county officers, amendments were made to three of the original 11 proposals that will go before Congress and Central Council for decision.
The discussion paper proposed that the under 21 football championship be discontinued but there was concern over the gap that would be created in an elite football player's development by ending age-based inter-county competition at 17.
The revised proposal envisages a new under 20 football championship to be played midweek in June and July from 2018.
Under the rules, all games would finish on the day with no replays. Extra-time, if inconclusive, would be followed by a 'sudden death' free-taking competition. Eligibility would be restricted to those players who are overage for under 18 and eligible for under 20; players who have featured on a team list submitted to a referee for an inter-county senior championship game in the current year will be ineligible to participate.
If delegates accept this proposal next month, next year's Congress will then be asked to remove the requirement of Rule 6.21 whereby players in underage championships are not expected to fulfil club championship fixtures within seven days of an inter-county championship game. This is to ensure that club championship matches would not be postponed because of participation in the under 20 championship.
Concern was raised over the abolition of all replays in provincial and All-Ireland senior championship games. While there was an acceptance of the impact of replays on club championship programmes, there was also a strong view that finals should be excluded from the proposal.
The revised proposal provides for replays in provincial senior and All-Ireland finals only - nine games in all - whereas there is, currently, potential for a replay in 54 matches after provincial and senior championship drawn games.
Counties in Britain were unhappy with the proposal to abolish the All-Ireland junior football championship, arguing that for most of their teams it is the only opportunity to compete for an All-Ireland title. "A motion has been drafted that meets their need in this regard and that also has the potential to meet a developmental need for some of our less successful counties," said a GAA spokesperson.
In a separate development yesterday, the GAA have confirmed that the British Army's Irish Guards club in London cannot be removed from their local championships.
According to a spokesperson, director-general Páraic Duffy told yesterday's meeting that the Association's "rules do not allow for the proposed rescindment of the decision to approve its affiliation". The Irish Guards are admitted to the championships last year but a proposal had been made to London County Board from the Granuaile hurling club to reverse that decision.
Sunday Indo Sport