The hand of GAA history rests upon the shoulders of the 183 delegates who are due to gather in Croke Park tomorrow to decide the fate of the All-Ireland football championship format.
Realistically, the delegates face a straight choice between what has become known as proposal ‘B’ or returning to the traditional format combining the provincial system with the back door qualifiers but with the addition of a new championship, the Tailteann Cup, for counties in Division 3 and 4.
By any standard, proposal ‘B’ is a radical departure, with a break from the provincial championships for the first time since 1889.
Instead, the 32 counties would participate in the All-Ireland championship, initially through a seven-round league format.
Only ten counties would advance to the knockout phase. A second-tier championship for Division 3 and 4 would be staged as well.
This is how the season would pan out next year if proposal ‘B’ received the 60pc backing from delegates this weekend.
Provincial championships to be played on a round-robin basis in February and March. They will have no link to the All-Ireland series.
In Munster and Connacht (including London), the six teams in both provinces will play in single groups. All teams are guaranteed a minimum of five games.
In Leinster and Ulster, there will be two groups as follows: Leinster Group 1 consists of six teams; Group 2 consists of five teams (Kilkenny does not participate in the Leinster SFC). Ulster Group 1 consists of five teams; Group 2 consists of four teams.
The top team in Connacht and Munster would progress straight to their respective provincial finals, while the second- and third-placed teams after the round-robin stage would meet in the semi-final.In Leinster and Ulster, the top two teams in each group would compete in the semi-finals, with the winners advancing to the finals.
ALL-IRELAND SERIES – LEAGUE FORMAT
The All-Ireland championship would be played initially on a league format between April and June, based on the existing league structure of four divisions.
Counties would compete in the following divisions based on the standings in the 2021 competition:
Division 1: Armagh, Donegal, Dublin, Kerry, Kildare, Mayo, Monaghan, Tyrone.
Division 2: Clare, Cork, Derry, Down, Galway, Meath, Offaly, Roscommon.
Division 3: Antrim, Fermanagh, Laois, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Westmeath, Wicklow.
Division 4: Carlow, Cavan, Leitrim, London, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford.
ALL-IRELAND SERIES – KNOCKOUT PHASE
There are no league finals under proposal ‘B’. Instead, ten counties would advance to the knockout phase of the All-Ireland championship to be decided as follows: Top five teams from Division 1; Top three teams from Division 2; Winners of Division 3 and 4.
The teams that finish sixth, seventh and eighth in Division 1 and fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in Division 2 would then have no further involvement in the All-Ireland series.
The Division 3 and 4 winners would meet the second- and third-placed teams from Division 2 in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.
The quarter-final draw would be seeded as follows: 1st in Division 1 v Preliminary round winner; 2nd in Division 1 v Preliminary round winner; 3rd in Division 1 v 1st in Division 2; 4th in Division 1 v 5th in Division 1.
The football championship would then proceed on a traditional knockout format culminating in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park on July 17, 2021.
The Tailteann Cup would include all Division 3 and 4 teams with the exception of the top placed teams in both divisions – they qualify automatically for the Sam Maguire championship. New York would also participate.
The competition will be run as follows: Preliminary quarter-finals involving 14 teams – one county would have a bye, followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. The winners of the Tailteann Cup will be automatically promoted.
Promotion and regulation will operate as normal in Division 1 and 2 but only the top placed counties in Division 3 and 4 are automatically promoted.
The second-placed team in either Division 3 or Division 4 will miss out on promotion if the Tailteann Cup winners finish outside the top two in the league.
Furthermore, there is also an exception to the normal rule in terms of teams being relegated from Division 3. If one of the bottom two teams win the Tailteann Cup they be promoted to Division 2 while the sixth-placed team in Division 3 will be relegated.
Proposal ‘A’ – An explainer of Motion 18
PROPOSAL 'A', or Motion 18, will be the first motion put to delegates that relates to the restructuring of the football championship.
It would see two phases of the provincial championships as well as a redrawing of provincial boundaries.
In Leinster, preliminary rounds would be played between the six lowest ranked teams according to league placings.
The winners of those games would progress in the Leinster Championship.
Two of the defeated teams in those games would go to Munster (to make an eight-team conference) with the other team switching to Connacht.
The two lowest ranked teams in Ulster would also play off, with the winners progressing in Ulster and the losers switching west to Connacht, who along with London, help make up the eight teams competing for the Connacht senior football championship.
At this point, all four provinces have an even eight-team split.
The four eight-team conferences are then split into two groups of four teams.
Those groups will be seeded according to league position.
The group winners progress to the Provincial Final and the bottom team in each group, as well as New York, would play in a knockout Tailteann Cup.
The teams placed second and third then would go into the All-Ireland Qualifiers.
The qualifiers are similar to the model introduced in 2001 and will be whittled down to four teams across three rounds.
The four teams left standing play the provincial champions in All-Ireland quarter-finals before the All-Ireland final to take place in mid-July.
*** Proposal B will only be voted on should Proposal A not reach the required 60 per cent ***