Monday 22 January 2018

Round-robin hurling proposals remain in balance

CPA to target 2018 Congress for reform

Michéal Briody, Chairman, Club Players Association. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Michéal Briody, Chairman, Club Players Association. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA's proposals to create round robin provincial championships in Leinster and Munster hang by a knife-edge ahead of Saturday's Special Congress.

A number of counties have already opposed the plans, which would see an extra nine games in the race for the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the season, as the two five-team provincial groups play each other with the top two qualifying for provincial finals.

The beaten finalists in each province would play the third-placed team in the other province, replacing the current All-Ireland series.

The biggest opposition is in Munster where Cork, Waterford and Clare had already signalled that they won't be voting for the Central Council motion and were joined by Tipperary last night who won't support it if their own motion fails. Limerick decided last night to leave the decision with their delegates on the day.

There is also opposition in Leinster where counties in a new six-team tier want a same-year link for the winners to the MacCarthy Cup, rather than the champions going up the following year.

Support

However, some counties in the lower tiers are in favour of round robin Ring, Meagher and Rackard Cup games and that could see strong support from Connacht and Ulster.

Dublin have a motion which would involve the Munster and Leinster champions in All-Ireland quarter-finals again, the same format used for a period in the middle of the last decade.

Meanwhile, a potential protest by members of the Club Players Association (CPA) is unlikely to materialise at the weekend Special Congress.

Earlier this month, the CPA had asked their membership if they would be in favour of a protest at this weekend's gathering over the manner in which the broader issue of club fixtures was being dealt with.

But while not addressing the protest issue specifically, a CPA update has now targeted the 2018 Congress as one that will "change the landscape for the club players".

CPA officials have been engaging with senior Croke Park officials in recent weeks and have expressed concern at the "disjointed management and incremental change in the GAA calendar.

"At 2017 Congress we witnessed the adoption of the Super 8s and now as an afterthought, hurling has been added to the agenda, requiring a Special Congress," their latest update pointed out.

The CPA - which is chaired by Micheál Briody - said that there was a commitment from Croke Park to produce a national master fixtures plan by the end of October.

"They have given us a verbal assurance that the repeated CPA requests focusing on the needs of club players will be reflected in this plan by delivering more exclusive club weekends and by adding certainty to the calendar.

"We look forward to this development and the publication of the National Master Fixtures Plan which we will judge on its merits when it is produced. We will give our feedback then on behalf of GAA Club Players."

The GAA has been working steadily towards creating a free April and August for clubs (with the exception of semi-finalists) but aligning the Christy Ring/Nicky Rackard/Lory Meagher Cups and the creation of a new hurling tier that could also correspond with the MacCarthy Cup, thereby removing the Leinster round robin which starts in April, is central to that.

Without those changes on the agenda on Saturday, a free April for clubs would be much more difficult to achieve.

The football league finals, which were brought forward by two weeks this year, now look like they will be played a week earlier again with Sunday, April 1 the new target date.

That will require an even earlier start to the national football league with two rounds potentially being pencilled in for the end of January.

Irish Independent

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