Antrim would benefit if CCCC proposals for hurling reform were accepted
ANTRIM will be one of five teams that will take part in a provincial qualifier group leading into the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship if CCCC proposals for a three-year trial are accepted.
Along with Laois, Westmeath, Kerry and this weekend's Christy Ring final opponents Carlow, the quintet would battle it out for one playoff spot against the third placed team in the reformed Munster or Leinster Championship groups.
Winning that playoff would promote the winners into the All-Ireland quarter-final where they would play one of the two beaten provincial finalists. The Munster and Leinster Championships will be completely reformed, moving from their traditional straight knockout format to a round robin series.
The top two teams will contest their respective provincial final, with the third placed team remaining in the Championship to play the winner of the provincial qualifier group.
The winners from Munster and Leinster would qualify directly on opposite sides of the All-Ireland semi-final draw, as is the case at present.
The beaten provincial finalists would play in the two All-Ireland quarter-finals, with the identity of their opponents alternating on a rolling two-year cycle.
The proposals for 2018 would see the beaten Leinster finalists meet the winners of the playoff tie between the third-placed Munster team and the winner of the provincial qualifier group. The defeated Munster finalists would go up against the third-placed team in Leinster.
The changes would mean a reform also of the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups, which would move to a round-robin format as well.
It would be good news in a sense for Derry counties Armagh and Derry, who are set to meet in Saturday's Nicky Rackard Cup final.
Based on the current standings, with both Antrim and Carlow set to move out of the Christy Ring Cup for 2018, both Derry and Armagh would move up to the Christy Ring Cup next year.
They would be joined by Down, Kildare, London, Mayo, Meath and Wicklow in a competition that would comprise two round robin groups of four teams each.
Each county would be guaranteed at least one home game per season with the top team in each group qualifying for the final.
The winner of the Christy Ring Cup would be promoted automatically to the provincial qualifier group for the following season.
Likewise, there would be no playoffs between the Nicky Rackard and Christy Ring, with the winners of the third tier competition automatically promoted above the losers of a playoff between the two bottom teams in the Christy Ring groups.
The Nicky Rackard would consist of Donegal, Longford, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone and the winners of this weekend's Lory Meagher Cup final between Leitrim and Warwickshire, which now takes on added significance.
The proposals also include the option for Galway and “any Ulster teams of sufficient strength” to be included in the Leinster under-21 Championship.
However, the offset of that is the idea that the winners
of Leinster and Munster qualify directly for the All-Ireland final.
Galway will also be accepted into the Leinster minor Championship but while the proposals state that “consideration should also be given to the participation of Antrim, and possibly one other Ulster county,” there is no cast-iron guarantees that they will be included in minor reforms.
The proposals will be discussed by Central Council at its meeting next Saturday, June 17, after which it is expected a Special Congress will be called to debate the implementation of the proposals for a three year trial from 2018 until 2020.
Liam MacCarthy Cup 2018
Leinster round robin: Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Offaly, Wexford
Munster round robin: Clare, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford
Provincial qualifier group: Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Antrim, Carlow
* Provincial winners qualify for All-Ireland semi-finals
* Provincial runners-up qualify for All-Ireland
* Winners of qualifier group will play third placed Munster team for place in All-Ireland quarter-final
* Third placed team in Leinster qualifies for
All-Ireland quarter-final; rotates on two-year cycle between the two provinces
Christy Ring Cup 2018
Armagh, Derry, Down, Kildare, London, Mayo, Meath, Wicklow
* Two round-robin groups of four teams
* Round-robin to be played over no more than four weeks
* Top team in each group qualifies for Christy Ring final
* Winner promoted to the following year's provincial Qualifier group
Nicky Rackard Cup 2018
Donegal, Longford, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, Tyrone, Leitrim/Warwickshire
* Same format as proposals for Christy Ring
Lory Meagher Cup 2018
Cavan, Fermanagh, Lancashire, Leitrim/Warwickshire
* Single round-robin group
* Top two qualify for the final, winner promoted to the Nicky Rackard Cup
All-Ireland U21 Championship
* Galway and “any Ulster teams of sufficient strength” to be accommodated in Leinster SHC
* No All-Ireland semi-finals
* Leinster and Munster champions progress directly to the All-Ireland final
Minor Hurling Championship
* Provincial Championships to be played as at present
* Galway to participate in a three-team group with defeated Leinster and Munster finalists
* Two will progress from the group to All-Ireland
semi-finals along with provincial champions
* “Consideration should be given to the participation of Antrim, and possibly one other Ulster county, in Leinster”