2014 target for hurling format changes
THE GAA hopes the hurling competition proposals released yesterday for discussion will be adopted for a reasonable length of time. The proposed structures for league and championship have been brought forward by the Central Competitions Control Committee and will be debated by Central Council tomorrow fortnight.
Both sets of proposals prioritise providing a pathway for counties to progress to higher levels of competition but only if they manage to win their way up the ranks.
Interestingly, the CCCC appear to have focused most attention on how to deal with the situation facing the twilight zone counties – caught between the MacCarthy and Ring Cups, not good enough for the former and too good for the latter.
Should they be accepted, the championship proposals will go forward to annual congress as motions and if passed, will be implemented for the 2014 season. One of the three suggested league options needs only to be accepted by Central Council to come into force, also in 2014.
Feargal McGill, GAA head of games administration and a member of the CCCC, is hopeful the blueprint can provide stability for hurling competitions in the medium and long term.
“We think this would last for quite some time,” he told The Irish Times. “We acknowledge that you can’t chop and change all the time.”
The CCCC was addressing a number of issues in respect of the championship. One is the the MacCarthy Cup, which has grown in recent years (“to an unrealistic level from a competitiveness point of view,” according to the proposals), with no relegation from the top tier.
The blueprint would see the current 15-team field reduced incrementally to 13 by 2016 through the introduction in 2014 of a “qualifying group” for Antrim, Laois, Carlow, Westmeath and London.
Playing on a round-robin basis, the top two counties in the group would progress to the Leinster championship; the bottom side would be relegated and the second-last would play the Ring Cup winners for MacCarthy Cup status in 2015.
Win your way up
According to McGill, “It’s incorporating the principle of ‘win your way up’. We felt that over a period of time it would lead to teams getting stronger and putting in the work, doing the development, eventually being rewarded by making their way to the MacCarthy Cup and getting an opportunity.
“There’s almost a limbo between Christy Ring and Liam MacCarthy and that is recognised by the qualifying group, the round-robin aspect of the championship.
“This achieves a couple of things: it gives those counties who aren’t able to compete with the top 10 a chance, a) to play competitive games against each other and b) a chance to progress beyond that and test themselves at a higher level.”