GAA Football

McCavana confident Antrim won't stay bottom of pile for long amid Connacht Championship proposal

Despite last weekend's victory over Waterford, Antrim missed out on promotion from Division Four of the National Football League. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

ANTRIM chairman Ciaran McCavana is “very confident” the Saffrons won’t be the bottom-placed team in Ulster for long, amid proposals that could see a county from the province compete in the Connacht SFC from 2022.

On Wednesday the GAA's fixtures taskforce revealed updated plans for a proposed move towards a split season in two years’ time. Several proposals remain on the table and a further consultation period will take place before the finalised plans are put to a vote at next year's annual Congress.

Among the radical proposals is the potential for the lowest-ranked county in Ulster at the end of the National League - which has been Division Four Antrim for a number of years - to be moved into the Connacht Championship as part of a rebalancing of the provinces into four groups of eight.

And McCavana says the Antrim County Board will take its time to consider the proposals on the table before reaching any decision.

He said: “We’ve just got sight this morning of the findings of the working group and we have to have time to analyse and review them to see what’s in the best interests of Antrim GAA.

“People are assuming it’s always going to be Antrim who are the bottom team. While it may affect Antrim in 2022 [if that proposal was adopted], I’m very confident Antrim won’t be the bottom placed team in Ulster going forward; we’re getting our structures and our house in order.

“Everyone in Ulster football is wedded to the Ulster Championship, the same way people in Munster are wedded to the Munster Hurling Championship. It is the marquee competition.

You have to look around and see what would be the best short, medium and long-term for Antrim GAA, but in the medium and long-term I’d be very confident Antrim won’t be bottom of the nine counties, so it may not affect us.

“Some people might see at it as a stepping stone. For example, it wouldn’t be out of the question that the bottom team in Ulster could get to a Connacht final – it’s not as hard a path as the Ulster Championship.

“Everything’s far from black and white so we’re going to talk it out, go back to the clubs and the county players, county management and make a decision.

“The working group has worked hard on it, I’m sure they’re not getting up in the morning to try and upset Ulster or Antrim football supporters, so I want to digest it properly and see the pros and cons.”

The proposal to revamp the All-Ireland football Championship is broken into two main parts, with the first option rebalancing the provinces into four eights. Within the first plan, which would retain the current structure of League followed by Championship, there are two options still being considered.

Automatically sending the bottom-ranked Ulster team from the National League to Connacht, as well as the bottom three teams in Leinster into Munster, is the first option.

The other is that the bottom two from Ulster play-off, with the winner staying in the province and the loser going to Connacht.

The second overall proposal has abandoned any thoughts of balancing the provinces, and would instead focus on a provincial Championship in the early part of the year followed by a League-based championship from April until July.

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GAA Football