Tuesday 18 December 2018

Venue boost for provincial champions in 'round robin'

Donegal manager Declan Bonner has an on-pitch debrief with his players after their quarter-final defeat to Dublin last summer, which left the Ulster champions under early pressure in the ‘Super 8’ series. Photo: Sportsfile
Donegal manager Declan Bonner has an on-pitch debrief with his players after their quarter-final defeat to Dublin last summer, which left the Ulster champions under early pressure in the ‘Super 8’ series. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Provincial football winners are likely to have home advantage in their first, rather than third, All-Ireland quarter-final 'round robin' game next year after complaints about the sequencing last summer.

The four provincial champions (Dublin v Donegal, Galway v Kerry) played each other in Croke Park on the same weekend, leaving the losers (Donegal and Kerry) under early pressure by comparison with qualifiers, Tyrone and Monaghan, who won their games against fellow-qualifiers, Roscommon and Kildare.

It was argued that the four provincial winners should have a home game first, a view now supported by the Central Competitions' Control Committee. They are proposing that the provincial champions be at home on the first weekend next year, while the qualifiers enjoy home advantage in Round 3. Round 2 would feature the provincial champions playing each other in Croke Park.

The proposals are part of a lengthy suite of measures, circulated to counties by CCCC yesterday, in preparation for a meeting of Central Council on Saturday week.

The other 'big ticket' items on the Central Council agenda will be a decision on a Tier 2 football championship and whether to alter the Division 1 structure in the Allianz Hurling League. It follows an extensive review and consultation process, involving CCCC, county boards, fixture analysts, team managers, GPA, CPA and Croke Park personnel.

It looks likely that change is on the way for 2020 in the hurling league as the CCCC document notes that "the majority of those consulted support the notion that in the context of the new 'round robin' system in the provincial championships, Division 1 should revert to two 'equal' groups of six teams.

Under the current system, Division 1A and 1B are merit-based, with promotion and relegation applying. The latest proposal envisages that 12 counties be divided into two groups of six, with three from 1A and 1B in each. If it were in operation next year, the line-up would be as follows:

Group A: Tipperary, Clare, Cork, Galway, Offaly, Carlow.

Group B: Kilkenny, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, Dublin, Laois.

Criticism

Despite criticism in recent years that quarter-finals are unnecessary additions to an already overcrowded spring fixture list, they are likely to remain after a GPA survey found that 58 per cent of players favour them.

CCCC recommend that if the new proposal for Division 1 is accepted, quarter-finals be reduced from four to two (2nd and 3rd in each group). The two group winners would qualify directly for the semi-finals.

CCCC warn that some one-sided games are likely if the merit-based system of deciding the composition of 1A and 1B is scrapped.

"In previous leagues of this nature, teams from the lower end have frequently been the recipients of heavy defeats. This situation is unlikely to change," says the CCCC report.

They also issue a warning on the future of the 'round robin' provincial championships, regarded as a great success in their debut season this year.

"The stark reality is that a choice can be made between having five-team 'round robin' provincial championships (and there is much to recommend this) in May and June or club games involving county players but it is not possible to have both."

In football, CCCC recommend that U-20 players who have featured on the county's senior championship team be allowed to play in the underage grade if the seniors are eliminated from the All-Ireland race.

They also felt that a submission from Kerry that the U-20 championship be played on a non-provincial group basis had merit and was an idea worthy of consideration by Central Council.

Irish Independent

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