GAA Football

New Ulster President Ciaran McLaughlin will back two-tier All-Ireland Football Championship model

Like the other provincial finalists, Ulster finalists Tyrone and Monaghan would progress through to the Sam Maguire series in the new 'Green Proposal' format. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

ULSTER GAA president-elect Ciaran McLaughlin says the province will back the introduction of a new two-tier structure for the All-Ireland Football Championship at next month's National Congress.

Tyrone native McLaughlin – a player, coach, manager, referee, club and county chairman and Ulster Council administrator throughout more than 30 years' of dedicated service to the Association - will be ratified as the successor to Oliver Galligan at tomorrow night's provincial convention.

The Strabane Sigerson's clubman says structural change is needed in the football Championship but believes it should not be to the detriment of the provincial competitions. So the model he will support is the ‘Green Proposal' which will see the eight provincial finalists joined in a Sam Maguire competition by the eight other counties that finished highest in the National League. The remaining 16 counties will be streamed into a second tier Tailteann Cup competition.

“We had a period of reflection after the Special Congress and we listened to representations from across the province,” McLaughlin explained.

“We believe that we have a League system that currently works well and we want to protect that and we also want to protect the provincial Championships because we believe that the Ulster Championship is the hardest to win – this year we have four Ulster teams (Tyrone, Armagh, Donegal and Monaghan) in Division One but the winner could come from one of the other counties as Cavan showed in 2020.

“So the Ulster Championship brings excitement and enjoyment and the knockout factor and we want to maintain that and it's up to the other provinces to do whatever they can do to bring their Championships up to match what we do.

“Ultimately, there does need to be change but the provincial championships shouldn't be lost in that change.”

Two motions proposing a restructuring of the All-Ireland SFC failed to get the necessary 60 per cent support from delegates at the GAA's Special Congress in October. McLaughlin says the ‘Green Proposal is “what's best for Ulster” and it could provide the foundation for more change in the future.

The new format – which will be introduced in 2023 if it is voted through next month - will guarantee every county a minimum of four Championship games – at least one in their provincial Championship and three more in the group stages of the new competitions.

“Counties will have at least one game in their provincial Championship and then three more in the group phase of the Sam Maguire or Tailteann Cup competition - 24 counties of the 32 are going to be guaranteed five games,” McLaughlin explained.

“In the Qualifier system, counties were only guaranteed two games so I think this is a big change and if people believe that more change is needed on top of it then at least we've taken that first step and we've started to provide the opportunities for change that our players and our supporters and members are crying out for.

“That's what I believe is best for Ulster. I've discussed it with a number of people and having considered all the proposals brought by the Association, this is the one which Ulster and its counties will be endorsing.

“It'll come in (if passed at Congress) for 2023 and the key point is that I see the need for change, I definitely do, but not at the detriment of the provincial Championships. This option would give all counties games against teams of a similar standard.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football