Friday 19 July 2019

Congress to consider complex football championship revamp at special October vote

Eoin Murchan of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Eoin Murchan of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire Cup after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

A special GAA Congress in Cork in October will decide on the format of the proposed new two-tiered All-Ireland football championship, which is scheduled to be introduced next year.

At a meeting of the Association’s Central Council in Croke Park yesterday, delegates unanimously agreed to send  two proposals to its wider membership for discussion.

Delegates also decided to change the timing of the All-Ireland club finals in football and hurling.

Both will now be played in January rather than on the traditional St Patrick’s Day slot with the change coming into effect in 2020. The newly revamped Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork will host the special Congress on October 19, at which a final decision will be taken on the proposals.

There will be plenty of debate in the meantime and presumably delegates will have the option of voting both proposals down.

The proposals, which both envisage the provincial championships being retained, are as follows:

Plan A — The number of qualifier rounds will be reduced from four to two and only teams who played in either

Division 1 or 2 of the Allianz League would be eligible to compete in the qualifiers, together with Division 3 and 4 teams who qualify for their provincial finals.

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The Tier 2 Championship format is a straight knock-out competition for the 16 teams from across Divisions 3 and 4 that did not make their provincial finals. The document does not address the issue of what happens if fewer than 16 teams are eligible to compete, which will arise if a Division 3 or 4 team reaches a provincial final.

The competition may be organised on a geographical basis — northern and southern conferences for first round ties, quarter-finals and semi-finals to ensure less travel for teams and supporters, while also retaining local rivalries. The semi-finals would be the only senior inter-county GAA events on their respective weekend – barring a major replay.

Plan B — This is a much more complicated structure.

A key difference from Plan A is that in the event of a Division 3 or 4 team reaching a provincial final, to make up 16 teams in Tier 2, their place would be taken by the lowest-ranked Division 2 team from that year’s Allianz League.

The format for the Tier 2 Championship in this proposal features an initial round of games, which then creates a winners’ group and a losers’ group.

This will offer beaten counties a way of playing their way back into contention.

Proposal B would be played out on the following lines with 16 teams involved:

Rd 1: 8 Teams v 8 Teams,

Rd 2a: 4 Winners Rd 1 v 4 Winners Rd 1

Rd 2b: 4 Losers Rd 1 v 4 Losers Rd 1

Rd 3: 4 Rd 2b Winners v 4 Rd 2a Losers

QF: 4 Rd 2a Winners v 4 Rd 3 Winners

Semi-finals and final

An additional prize for the winner of the final under both proposals would be a place reserved in the following year’s All-Ireland football championship, irrespective of their league position. 

It is also envisaged that both proposals would have dedicated broadcast coverage and a marketing and promotional campaign with a dedicated All Star selection and tour.

The finals under both proposals would take place at Croke Park.

In relation to the timing of the club championships, it was agreed to move the finals to a new date in January.

In 2020, the senior semi-finals in hurling and football will be played across the weekend of January 4/5. The All-Ireland club senior finals in hurling and football will now be played on Sunday, January 19.

“The move is part of an overall commitment to condense the fixture calendar, create opportunities for club activity and also allow counties in the Allianz Leagues to access players who were previously unavailable because they were playing in All-Ireland senior club semi-finals and finals,” according to a GAA statement.

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