Counties to vote on new hurling league format
THREE top-line GAA committees are going head-to-head to win support for their proposals to change the format of the Allianz Hurling League from next year on.
Counties will be asked to vote for their choice at Saturday week's Central Council meeting when the only certainty is that the existing structure will be amended in some form.
The National Hurling Development Work Ground (NHD), the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) and the Management Committee have all drawn up proposals and it now remains to be seen which attracts most support.
The Management Committee want the current system to apply at the top end of the scale but with the addition of semi-finals. Both the NHD and CCCC are proposing a more radical shake-up, involving the extension of Division 1 from eight to 12 teams, made up of 1A and 1B on a merit system, based on where counties finished this year.
The NHD proposal features a straight final in each group with the bottom two to play off to decide on relegation. CCCC want quarter-finals and semi-finals to be introduced. That would leave the top four in 1A and top two in 1B in with a chance of winning the title outright. The bottom team in 1A would be automatically relegated.
Introducing six-team Divisions 1A and 1B would reduce the number of group games, thereby facilitating a later start to the leagues, which will find favour with many counties.
However, there's likely to be strong opposition from the likes of Carlow, who finished fifth in Division 2 this year but who would find themselves playing against lower opposition in the reconstituted Division 2A, and Wicklow, who were looking forward to moving up to a higher grade after topping their group this year.
Allianz Hurling League 2012
Option 1 -- (National Hurling Development Work Group)
Divide Division 1 into 1A and 1B, made up of six teams each, based on where they finished in this year's league. Apply a similar split in Division 2 (six in 2A and 2B). That takes care of 24 counties, leaving the remaining nine (assuming Cavan enter) to compete in a special group (Tain Division).
Top two divisions would look as follows:
1A: Kilkenny, Dublin, Waterford, Tipperary, Galway, Cork.
1B: Wexford, Offaly, Limerick, Clare, Laois, Antrim.
2A: Down, Carlow, Kerry, Westmeath, Wicklow, Derry.
2B: London, Kildare, Meath, Armagh, Mayo, Roscommon.
Five games in each division. Top two in 1A to play for title (outright); top two in 1B, 2A, 2B to play-off for promotion. Bottom two in each division play in relegation play-off. Tain division (bottom nine) will dovetail with a club hurling league.
Option 2 -- (Central Competitions Control Committee)
Divisions 1 and 2 would be comprised of the same counties as in Option 1; similarly for the bottom group.
However, CCCC are proposing a different knockout system. The top two counties in 1A would go directly to semi-finals, where they would be guaranteed home advantage. They would be joined by the winners of two quarter-finals, featuring third 1A v 2nd 1B and fourth 1A v top 1B.
Bottom team in 1A to be relegated and replaced by top team in 1B. Bottom 1B would play off against winners 2A (to be decided on a final) to settle relegation/promotion. A similar promotion/relegation system to apply between 2A and 2B.
Option 3 (GAA Management Committee)
Divide the top 24 into three divisions as decided by placings this year.
Division 1: Kilkenny, Dublin, Waterford, Tipperary, Galway, Cork, Wexford, Limerick.
Division 2: Offaly, Clare, Laois, Antrim, Down, Carlow, Kerry, Wicklow.
Division 3: Westmeath, Derry, London, Kildare, Meath, Armagh, Mayo, Roscommon.
Bottom eight/nine to play in Tain Division, which would be part of a club hurling league.
The top four in Divisions 1, 2, 3, to play semi-finals. Bottom two in each division relegated and replaced by finalists from the division immediately below.