'We're entitled to our say too' - Laois and Carlow to bring alternative championship proposal to Congress
While most of the focus on changing the format of the All-Ireland Football Championship centres on Central Council's high-profile proposal to replace the quarter-finals with a round-robin series, Laois and Carlow are driving forward with their own ideas.
They are opposing the Central Council plan and will bring their own separate motions to Congress on Saturday week.
"We think our proposal would benefit a lot of counties, guaranteeing them three qualifier games as opposed to one at present," said Laois secretary Niall Handy.
Ger Lennon, Carlow's former secretary and incoming Central Council delegate, said: "Our system would guarantee counties an average of two extra weeks for club games in the summer. In fact, in some cases it would be as much as three weeks. That would make a big difference."
Laois are following the Central Council round-robin model, with one significant difference. Central Council want it applied to the last eight counties in the Championship, whereas Laois are proposing that it be introduced for the 16 counties in the first round of the qualifiers.
They would be divided into four groups of four, with the top two in each section advancing to Round 2.
"The three round-robin games would be played over successive weekends so it's not as if they would cause delays. We feel that giving counties who don't reach their provincial semi-finals a minimum of three extra games would be a big help to them," said Handy.
"Counties who get to the last eight already have played a number of games, but counties who lose early on in the provincial championships are guaranteed only one more outing. They are the ones who need more games after having put in so much effort and training."
The Laois plan includes the completion of the round-robin by the third weekend in June. The Round 1 qualifiers are scheduled for June 17 (Section A) and June 24 (Section B) this year.
If the Laois system had been in operation last year the counties involved in four groups of four (decided by draw) would have been: Laois, Armagh, Derry, Louth, Carlow, Wicklow, Leitrim, Waterford, Limerick, Antrim, Longford, Down, Offaly, London, Fermanagh and Wexford.
Carlow's motion seeks to expedite the qualifiers by bringing forward the dates. It's an amended version of their proposal from last year, which won over 40pc support. They call for the scrapping of the A and B qualifier groups, instead including all 16 counties who don't reach their provincial semi-finals in the first-round qualifier draw.
That applied up to a few years ago but the big difference emphasised by Carlow is in the timing the qualifiers.
They want the entire Round 1 programme played on the first weekend in June (eight counties had their first game on June 25 last year).
Carlow are also proposing that all provincial semi-finals be played by the third weekend in June (it's currently the fourth in Leinster and Ulster), with finals completed by the second, rather than the third, weekend in July.
"There's no good reason for not starting the qualifiers earlier. There are often long gaps between being knocked out of the provincial championships and playing the first qualifier game which is bad for counties and clubs. Our proposal offers more room for club games," said Lennon.
His point about the long stretch between provincial exits and the first round of the qualifiers was underlined last year by Longford and Antrim, who had six-week delays, and Carlow and Wicklow, who waited five weeks.
It remains to be seen how much support Laois and Carlow gather, especially since they are up against the might of GAA Central Council and Management Committee, who are backing the round-robin proposal for the last eight counties.
That motion is listed at No 4 on the agenda, whereas Laois and Carlow are at Nos 24 and 25 respectively. If the Central Council proposal is carried, the Laois motion would fall since two round-robins at different stages of the championship would not be feasible.
Laois and Carlow could seek to have their motions taken in conjunction with the Central Council proposal so as to have all issues relating to the SFC discussed at the same time.