Wednesday 13 December 2017

Martin Breheny: Win three out of seven for All-Ireland glory

The fine details of the extensive package will be digested by county boards over the coming week. Photo: Stock image
The fine details of the extensive package will be digested by county boards over the coming week. Photo: Stock image
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The possibility that a county could be crowned All-Ireland hurling champions after winning only three of seven games is one of the quirks thrown up by the extensive range of reform proposals.

Granted, such a scenario would require an unusual set of results but that the risk exists at all is one of the inevitable by-products from having three of five counties in Leinster and Munster advance to the knockout stages. Here's how it would be possible for a county to take the All-Ireland title by winning less than half their games.

Each of the five counties in the Leinster and Munster Championships play four games in a 'round robin' format. Depending on how the results went, two points (possibly accumulated off two draws) could be enough for a third-place finish.

Effectively, a team could qualify for the quarter-finals without winning any of the four provincial games. After that, it would take three games to win the All-Ireland title.

The validity of an All-Ireland success achieved with a 43pc win rate would certainly be open to question. That example is at the extreme end of the range of possibilities but, lower down the scale, it would be quite possible to win the All-Ireland title after losing twice in the provincial championships.

Supporters of the proposed new system contend that there's nothing wrong with that. They also argue that the merits of a 'round robin' provincial system - complete with extra games and a guaranteed two 'home' and two 'away' fixtures for every county - heavily outweighs potential downsides.

The fine details of the extensive package will be digested by county boards over the coming week, before being discussed by Central Council on Saturday week.

If the proposals find favour with a majority of delegates, they will go before a Special Congress - probably in August - with a view to implementation next year, which will also see the introduction of a 'round robin' system to replace the All-Ireland football quarter-finals.

Counties who don't favour the Croke Park package will be free to submit their own proposals to Special Congress, although it's difficult to see how any of them would be accepted as they would not have been subjected to the same thorough analysis as the proposals which were formally launched this week.

It's by no means certain that the new plan will be accepted by Central Council, although it's likely to find favour with many of the stronger hurling counties. However, it's expected that reservations will be raised in parts of Leinster, where only four 'native' counties will compete in the five-way 'round robin' to decide the destination of the Bob O'Keeffe Cup. Galway will be the fifth contender.

There is also likely to be some disquiet among the five counties in the Leinster qualifier group that only the winners will be allowed into the All-Ireland series in the same year.

The winners would play third-placed in Leinster and Munster in alternate years for a place in the quarter-finals. Pressure may be applied to allow the top two in the qualifier group into the All-Ireland race. There may also be objections from some Leinster counties to Galway's arrival in their U-21 championship.

Galway have won ten U-21 titles over the last 45 years so their presence in Leinster would weaken the prospects for the 'natives', which may not go down well in the east.

Irish Independent

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