GAA release proposal for new 2018 hurling structure with revamped provincial championships
After voting to introduce the Super Eights for the football championship from next season, the GAA has today released its proposal for a new hurling structure.
As previously started by GAA President Aogan O Fearghail, the GAA hope to implement a round robin provincial structure in the hurling championship, consisting of five teams in Leinster and five teams in Munster, with each county getting two home games and two away games in each championship.
The new proposal will be debated at a Central Council meeting on Saturday week where delegates will decide whether to call a special Congress in the autumn which will formally vote on the proposal.
If adopted, next season would see Kilkenny, Galway, Dublin, Wexford and Offaly play in the revamped Leinster championship and Cork, Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick and Clare compete in Munster.
The winners of the provincial finals would then go straight though to the All-Ireland semi-finals with the defeated provincial finalists qualifying for the All-Ireland quarter finals.
However, the proposed structure also has a pathway for teams from the 'provincial qualifying group', which would consist of Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Antrim and Carlow in 2018, to reach the quarter-finals.
The third based team then in each province would either progress directly to the All-Ireland quarter-final or alternatively play the winner of a qualifier group.
Those five teams would also play two home and two away games, with the winner gaining promotion to the Leinster championship the following season. However, if Kerry or another Munster team wins the provincial qualifier group, they will play a playoff against the fifth placed team in Munster to determine who stays in the top tier.
The winner of the provincial qualifier group will also play a playoff against the third placed team in Munster or Leinster, in alternate years, to determine who advances to the All-Ireland quarter-final.
In 2018, the third placed team in Munster would face the provincial qualifier group winner with a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final at stake.
Meath will feel very hard done by after finishing last in the qualifier group and they will still be relegated to the Christy Ring Cup next season under the proposals.
The format for the qualifier group will be the same as the new look Munster and Leinster championships – each team is guaranteed four games; two home and two away. Crucially they will be played at the same time as the games in the provincial series.
Apart from having a shot at reaching the All-Ireland quarter finals, there is an extra incentive for the group winners as they will qualify for the Leinster championship proper in 2019.
The bottom team in the Leinster championship will drop into the qualifier group while the county which finishes last in the qualifier group will be relegated to the Christy Ring Cup.
However, in the event of Kerry winning the qualifier group there is a slightly different procedure.
They will meet the bottom team in the Munster qualifier group with the winners qualifying for the Munster championship proper.
This raises the possibility, however slight, of one of traditional big five in Munster dropping out of the provincial series.
There is also an incentive for future Christy Ring Cup winners as the team which wins the competition in 2018 and subsequent years will be promoted to the qualifier group.
If accepted, the new proposal will run on a three-year trial basis beginning in 2018, as is the case with the new Super 8 format in football.