GAA publish proposals to revamp Hurling Championship
The GAA’s proposals to revamp the All-Ireland hurling championship have been formally published.
The plan will be debated at a Central Council meeting on Saturday week when delegates will decide whether to call a special Congress in the autumn which will formally vote on the proposal.
If accepted it will run on a three-year trial basis beginning in 2018, as is the case with the new 'Super 8' format in football.
While the bones of the plan are already in the public domain, the official document clarifies a number of issues.
As already known, the Munster and Leinster championships would be played on a round-robin basis.
Each team would have two home and two away games, with the two counties finishing in the top two places in each group qualifying for their respective provincial finals.
The competing teams in the Munster series would be Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford while the five teams competing in the Leinster series would be Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Offaly and Wexford.
The winners of the provincial finals would go straight though to the All-Ireland semi-finals with the defeated provincial finalists qualifying for the All-Ireland quarter finals.
The third based team in each province would either progress directly to the All-Ireland quarter-final or alternatively play the winner of a qualifier group.
In 2018 this qualifier group would consists of Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Antrim and Carlow.
The composition of the qualifier group was determined by the performances of the counties in this year’s Leinster qualifier group with Laois, Westmeath and Kerry occupying the first three places. They will be joined by this year’s Christy Ring Cup finalists, Antrim and Carlow.
Meath will feel very hard done by – they finished last in the qualifier group and will still be relegated to the Christy Ring Cup next season under the proposals.
The format for the qualifier group will be the same as the new look Munster and Leinster championships – each team is guaranteed four games; two home and two away.
Crucially they will be played at the same time as the games in the provincial series.
Apart from having a shot at reaching the All-Ireland quarter finals, there is an extra incentive for the group winners as they will qualify for the Leinster championship proper in 2019.
The bottom team in the Leinster championship will drop into the qualifier group while the county which finishes last in the qualifier group will be relegated to the Christy Ring Cup.
However, in the event of Kerry winning the qualifier group there is a slightly different procedure.
They will meet the bottom team in the Munster qualifier group with the winners qualifying for the Munster championship proper.
This raises the possibility, however slight, of one of traditional big five in Munster dropping out of the provincial series.
There is also an incentive for future Christy Ring Cup winners as the team which wins the competition in 2018 and subsequent years will be promoted to the qualifier group.