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Leinster hurling championship to have six counties in 2021

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Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile

The Leinster SHC will be a six-county competition from 2021 after Congress opted to accept the province’s motion for change.

The success of Laois in last year’s All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final game against Dublin has been the main driver and no county will be relegated from this year’s

round-robin as the five counties will be joined by the Joe McDonagh Cup champions next year.

The prospect of Kerry winning the McDonagh Cup will require some future addressing. As it stands, if Kerry were to win the second-tier competition, they would play the bottom Munster team in a play-off, but Leinster chief executive Michael Reynolds said they would keep an open mind to having Kerry in the province as one of the six teams if the Central Competition Controls Committee saw it that way.

Moves to cement the All-Ireland U-20FC into February and March were rebuffed with the Fixtures Task Force agreeing to former GAA president Nickey Brennan’s suggestion to withdraw their fixture motions (schools competition conclusion and refinement) until they were discussed at the ‘roadshows’ planned.

But it was clear from delegates that the future home of the U-20 football championship will be in summer, a setback for the Task Force’s overall plans to prioritise clubs as much as possible in that window.

“There’s nothing fixed in that document. It’s been openly said that if some of the recommendations need to be tweaked before put into motion form, they will be, to get it better,” said GAA president John Horan. “The wisdom of the whole organisation is more important than the wisdom of an expert group.”

One round of the All-Ireland football quarter-finals can now be played at neutral venues, rather than specifically Croke Park. The ‘Croke Park’ round has been played between respective provincial champions for the last two years which gave Dublin two games in the series at Croke Park. That may still be the case if and when they meet Kerry later this year, in the expectation that both will be provincial champions.

Thurles would be a halfway point for that game, Páirc Uí Chaoimh could be an option to give it a crowd-pulling fixture but Kerry are unlikely to recoil from taking on Dublin in Croke Park either, given their tradition at the venue. The ‘neutral’ venue games could be in the second or third phases of the Super 8s, depending on who wins in the first phase are as they are due to meet in the second phase now.

Some certainty has also been brought to underage grades, in line with the Talent Academy report recommendations.

From U-17 down will now be considered development grades with U-15 and U-13 prioritised.

Uniformity across counties was urged, with Ulster secretary Brian McEvoy stating that it was “time for clarity to put it to bed”.

The confusion over eligibility for underage grades has been cleared with U-17s eligible for the U-20 grade.

Irish Independent