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talking point The format of the All-Ireland football championship is back on the GAA’s agenda


Tyrone managers Brian Dooher (left) and Feargal Logan celebrate with Sam

Tyrone managers Brian Dooher (left) and Feargal Logan celebrate with Sam

Tyrone managers Brian Dooher (left) and Feargal Logan celebrate with Sam

FORGIVE me for returning to a topic which so many column inches was devoted to last autumn.

But the hoary old chestnut – the format of the All-Ireland football championship is back on the GAA’s agenda.

Last October’s Special Congress failed to back either of the two proposals before them. So, the Association reverted to the format last used in 2017 with the addition of a second-tier Tailteann Cup for this year.

But such was the mood for change that the GAA set up a new task force to produce yet another plan to be debated at next month’s annual Congress in Mayo.

The task force - which includes the four provincial council vice-chairmen - came up with two plans which have been rather comically titled Red and Green

A meeting of the GAA’s Central Council which takes place tomorrow week is due to debate them and endorse one ahead of the Congress.

Anyway, enough of the machinations. What about the Red and Green Plans?

Green Plan

Ex-GAA President Sean Kelly is credited with conceiving this idea.

Essentially it entails the retention of the current League and provincial championships, which would be played in spring and early summer respectively.

But the All-Ireland series in both the Sam Maguire and Tailteann Cups would be played initially in a group round-robin format. Sixteen counties – divided into four groups – would compete in each competition.

The provincial winners and runners-up would be seeded one and two in their respective groups for the Sam Maguire Cup, thus the four provincial winners are guaranteed to be in separate groups.

The other eight places would come from the top placed team in the league that don’t qualify for the provincial finals.

Preliminary All-Ireland quarter-finals would feature the second and third placed teams from the round-robin series with the winners advancing to meet the group winners in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

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A Tailteann Cup would also have four groups comprising of the teams that didn’t qualify for the Sam Maguire Cup and would have the same format.

Red Plan

This is an amended version of the so-called Option B which was endorsed by the GPA and received backing from just over 50 percent of Congress delegates in October – it needed 60% to be passed. The most significant change sees provincial winners and runners-up being rewarded in terms of receiving additional league points before the group stages of the All-Ireland series.

The time-table remains unchanged with the season beginning with the provincial championships – though there is a provision for the finals to be played later than in the original proposal.

The league would revert to a 1A/1B and 2A/2B format instead of the current 1/2/3/4 divisions. In theory this would mean the top 16 teams would be split between 1A and 1B, whereas at present the top eight teams all play in Division 1.

Qualification for the All-Ireland series would depend entirely on how teams fared in the league though, as alluded to earlier, the provincial winners and runners-up would begin with two and one league points respectively.

The top four finishers in Divisions 1A and 1B, together with the winners of Division 2A and 2B, would advance to the knock-out stages of the Sam Maguire Cup. The remaining teams in 2A and 2B would play in a knock-out Tailteann Cup.

The winners of Division 2A and 2B would play against the fourth-place teams from Division 1A and 1B in the preliminary All-Ireland quarter-finals. The two winners would join the other six qualifiers (the top three teams from Divisions 1A/1B) in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Perhaps I have become cynical in my advancing years, but the labels attached to the respective plans probably reveals the thinking of the GAA mandarins.

In other words, green is for go whereas red signals danger and stop.

One wonders what the attitude of the GPA will be.

In truth GAA delegates usually ignore what the GPA say anyway. It will be entirely in keeping with the conservative make-up of the Central Council if the Green Plan gets the green light next weekend.

Of course, whether Congress delegates actually endorses it in February is a different matter entirely.

Let the debate begin yet again…

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