Hurling and camogie

Qualifier group abandoned in hurling reform plans

Central Council's proposals for reform of the senior hurling championship have abandoned the original idea for a qualifying group that would be involved in the Liam MacCarthy Cup. Picture by John McIlwaine
Cahair O'Kane

THE GAA’s Central Council has abandoned plans for a qualifier group as part of a reformed All-Ireland senior hurling championship.

Confirming its proposals that will go before a Special Congress on September 30, the joint CCCC / Central Council motion has been altered from the original idea that was released back in June.

It had proposed that five counties be included in a qualifier group from which one county would emerge to play off for a place in the last eight.

But while reform is still likely to happen, it will take a different shape now.

The Central Council motion has been rewritten to include just ten teams – five in the Munster Championship and five in Leinster, which would continue to include All-Ireland champions Galway.

The provincial champions would qualify directly for the All-Ireland semi-finals, while the second and third placed teams would play off in two All-Ireland quarter-finals, with the existing qualifier system disbanded.

A new ‘Tier Two Championship’ would be introduced to include the four teams that are currently in the Leinster qualifying group – Laois, Westmeath, Kerry and Meath – as well as two others, which will most likely be Carlow and Antrim.

It would be run on a round robin basis with the top two teams qualifying for the final.

Instead of the winner earning an instant shot at a game in the All-Ireland series, they would be promoted to either the Munster or Leinster Championship for the following year, with one team relegated “as appropriate”.

The newly introduced Tier Two Championship would become a separate competition a level above the Christy Ring Cup, with the Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups also continuing to make five tiers.

The Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups would be in line for change, becoming round robin competitions as well.

Counties have tabled several opposing motions. Tipperary are in favour of limiting the Liam MacCarthy Cup to the top ten sides but are proposing a knockout format in Munster and Leinster, with a qualifier system in place for beaten teams.

Their proposal concurs with Central Council’s regarding the reformation of the other tiers with the exception of asking the Tier Two champions to win a playoff to secure their promotion.

Dublin and Cork, however, have proposed retaining the current provincial Championship system with chances to the make-up of the rest of the Championship.

Dublin want to eliminate round two of the Qualifiers and have the provincial champions play in the quarter-finals alongside the runners-up and the winners of the first round qualifier.

Cork also want to take out the second round of qualifiers but to introduce a ‘Super Eight’ format for the quarter-finals, the same as the system that will be introduced to the All-Ireland football championship from next year.

Laois, Offaly and Meath have all proposed that the winners and runners-up of the proposed Tier Two Championship be granted playoffs against the third-placed teams in Munster and Leinster in the same season.

On the subject of the All-Ireland under-21 hurling championship, Central Council is also proposing reform that will do away with the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Galway “and any Ulster team(s) as agreed by Ulster and Leinster Councils” will participate in Leinster, with the winners there and in Munster going straight to the All-Ireland final.

Offaly, though, want Galway sent to Munster and for the door to Leinster to be opened to any Ulster teams that wish to participate.

Cork are proposing the retention of All-Ireland semi-finals, with the winners in Munster playing the Leinster runners-up and vice versa.

Central Council are also proposing that Ulster minor teams be allowed into the Leinster championship as agreed by the two provincial bodies, but Galway would remain excluded provincially.

They would instead enter a new three-team round-robin system with the beaten Munster and Leinster finalists, with the top two qualifying for the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Key hurling motions explained

Motion 2 (CCCC / Central Council)

- Confines the Liam MacCarthy Cup to ten teams – five in Munster and five in Leinster

- Provincial Championships be run on a round-robin basis, with each team having two home and two away games

- Winners in each province qualify for All-Ireland semi-finals

- Third-placed teams would meet beaten provincial finalists in All-Ireland quarter-finals

- One team from either Leinster or Munster relegated

- Replaced by winners of newly-proposed Tier Two Championship

- Tier Two competition comprises six teams, to reduce to five in 2019

- Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups to become round-robin competitions

Motion 3 (Tipperary)

- Confines the Liam MacCarthy Cup to ten teams – five in Munster and five in Leinster

- Munster and Leinster remain knockout competitions with a qualifier system

- Tier Two winners must win a playoff in order to be promoted

Motion 4 (Dublin)

- No change to current provincial system

- Change qualifier system so that four round one winners go straight into All-Ireland quarter-finals

- Provincial champions would play in one of the four quarter-finals

Motion 5 (Cork)

- Retain current provincial championships

- Change qualifier system so that four round one winners go straight into All-Ireland quarter-finals

- All-Ireland quarter-finals played on round-robin basis, same as ‘Super Eight’ football format

Motion 9 (CCCC / Central Council)

- Reform under-21 championship to include Galway and agreed Ulster teams in Leinster

- Provincial winners go straight into All-Ireland final

Motion 10 (Offaly)

- Galway under-21s play in Munster and any Ulster teams that wish to do so play in Leinster

Motion 11

- All-Ireland under-21 semi-finals to continue between Munster and Leinster finalists

Motion 12

- Chosen Ulster teams, as agreed by Ulster and Leinster Councils, to participate in Leinster minor championship

- Galway to enter at a round-robin stage with beaten finalists from Munster and Leinster

- Two of those three qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals

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