Wednesday 11 December 2019

Task Force to call for 16-team limit to club championships

Stock photo: Sportsfile
Stock photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

No county will be permitted to have more than 16 teams in their flagship senior and intermediate club championships in the future if one of more than 30 recommendations from GAA's Fixtures Task Force is written into rule.

The task force will release their report for public consumption tomorrow, and it will make a range of suggestions designed to create more time for clubs to get through their programmes without overlap from an ever-growing inter-county calendar.

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By containing the number of clubs in a championship - many already have 16 or fewer - they believe that it will become easier to organise more compact championships that will fit into the July/August to October window that is being developed.

Cork and Tipperary are among the counties who have local championships in excess of 16 senior teams. Dublin have moved to 16-team senior 'A' and 'B' championships in the last year.

The task force has been working since June to come up with plans, not just in relation to time but also inter-county structures which will see two new proposals suggested: a flipped season where the current league takes preference in the summer and a provincial championship that will operate on a round-robin basis in the spring .

The provincial championship would be based on four groups of eight that would require one Ulster and one Leinster county going to Connacht and two Leinster counties going to Munster to create numerical parity.

It's not yet clear what criteria would be used to determine which counties moved and whether it would be on a fixed or temporary basis but league placings could play a part in that, creating a link between the two competitions.

Last month the Club Players Association (CPA) withdrew from the process at a late stage, describing the plans, as they were at that time, as a "Trojan horse designed to give cover to GAA authorities to ratify the status quo while having the appearance of consultation and thoughtful deliberation".

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Both fresh proposals incorporate a Tier 2 championship and time for pre-season competitions in each of the provinces.

An 'enhanced' status quo proposal will also be contained in the document with a week-long gap between All-Ireland hurling and football finals, instead of the current two, and the Connacht Championship games involving New York and London starting on the same weekend as the other provincial championships helping to recoup further time for clubs in the April/early May window, pushing it out to six weekends.

There are no recommendations to change the current hurling structures which are going into a third year. Inter-county managers are likely to be less than pleased to learn that banning challenges completely in April and even bringing an end to trials and challenges prior to December 1 are in the plans of the task force.

Change to the U-20 hurling championships are also in the pipeline with a later conclusion proposed. Currently, they conclude between the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals, with the removal of semi-finals and prevention of players being able to play senior and U-20 concurrently already in place for football.

Central Council delegates were given a briefing on the proposals at their meeting last week.

The oversight of fixtures at club level could also be strengthened at national level with the possible creation of a new governance unit.

• Connacht football champions Roscommon may have to plan without Diarmuid Murtagh in 2020 as he contemplates stepping away from the inter-county game for a year. He said yesterday he was currently on a "break" from pre-season activities.

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