Monday 19 February 2018

GAA play it safe with provincial hurling format reform


A proposal to change the Munster and Leinster hurling championships to a round-robin format was overwhelmingly rejected at a meeting of the GAA's Central Council in Croke Park yesterday.

Instead, a milder reform proposal will be forwarded for consideration at Congress in Derry next month. Conceived by the Central Competition Controls Committee (CCCC), it seeks to introduce a round-robin qualifying group in Leinster for five designated counties.

The CCCC proposal was backed, according to the GAA, by a large majority.

The proposal which was rejected was from the Hurling Development Work Group (HDWG). There had been concerns it would impact too severely on local fixtures although the reasons why the Council members opted for the CCCC alternative were not disclosed. Congress will ultimately decide on March 23.

There are 10 counties competing in this year's Leinster senior hurling championship, with five challenging for the Munster championship title. The CCCC proposal seeks to decrease the Leinster competition to a field of five regulars, namely Kilkenny, Dublin, Wexford, Offaly and Galway, along with two more from a round-robin qualifying group featuring Laois, Westmeath, Carlow, London and Antrim.

If the proposal is successful at Congress, it will be introduced in 2014.

Laois, Carlow, Westmeath, Antrim and London would each play four games, with the top two qualifying for the Leinster championship quarter-finals.

The fourth-placed team would meet the Christy Ring Cup winner in a promotion/relegation play-off. The bottom county would face automatic relegation to the Christy Ring.

In 2010 there were 13 McCarthy Cup participants but that has since increased to 15 with the addition of London and Westmeath, with no county dropping out.

The Leinster champions, as with the Munster winners, will still enjoy direct entry to the All-Ireland semi finals.

Under the CCCC proposal, round one of the qualifiers will feature the five Leinster and three Munster counties who fail to qualify for their provincial final, creating four fixtures.

A seeded draw will be held. One bowl will contain three Leinster counties and one Leinster qualifier, or the team beaten by them in the Leinster quarter or semi-final. The other bowl will contain the three Munster counties and one Leinster qualifier, or the county they beat at the provincial quarter or semi-final stage.

The four winners that emerge will play two qualifier games to see which pair reaches the All-Ireland quarter finals. There they will meet the losing provincial finalists.

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