Central Council likely to back CCCC reform plans
It is considered likely tomorrow’s GAA Central Council meeting will back the proposals of its Central Competitions Control Committee for championship reform. There remains however some uncertainty about the intentions of the one third or so of delegates who abstained when the matter was raised at last month’s meeting.
Competing with the CCCC proposals for the endorsement, which will send the successful package for approval to next March’s annual congress in Derry, are those of the Hurling Development Committee, which propose turning the provincial championships into five-county, round-robin formats.
The need for a decision – to meet the deadline for tabling motions for congress – has necessitated the unusual holding of a January meeting of Central Council. The differences between the proposals have been widely publicised and the HDC’s format would increase the number of fixtures in Munster from four to 10. It also provides for round robins in Leinster as well as for a group of the weaker counties, currently in the MacCarthy Cup: Antrim, Carlow, Laois, London and Westmeath, giving two of them a chance to progress.
According to the CCCC blueprint, the number of counties in the MacCarthy Cup would be reduced incrementally over the next three years – the changes wouldn’t take effect until 2014 – with a clearly regulated system of promotion and relegation between the championship grades of MacCarthy, Ring, Rackard and Meagher cups.
The HDC proposal wasn’t actually before Central Council in December but its provisions were advanced by a number of counties at the meeting in response to the formal moving of the CCCC motion by Simon Moroney, then chair of the committee.
Show of hands
Whereas the vote was conducted on a show of hands and not recorded, it is believed by those present that most of the established hurling counties were in favour and the tightness of the vote, 17-17 and roughly as many abstentions, surprised many.
GAA president Liam O’Neill declined in the circumstances to exercise a casting vote and it was decided to remit both proposals for debate at a further meeting of Central Council in time for which all counties could make up their minds.
Moroney has since resigned from the CCCC, as he has been asked to act in his former role of Munster Council CEO until next September. He will however pilot the proposals at tomorrow’s meeting, as they were finalised under his watch, not his successor Tony O’Keeffe’s.
Sources within the HDC group are privately pessimistic about their chances and earlier this week the GAA’s Director of Games Development and Research Pat Daly said he hoped for “a decent hearing and a fair hearing” and that he would ask “for people to look at the proposals on an objective basis”.
Their proposals are strongly pitched on the basis that research indicates they are what the public want and that the round-robin format with two home and two away matches will bring certainty to the season schedules.
Round robin competition with its vulnerability to dead rubbers and predictability hasn’t been popular in the past with the GAA public – certainly when tried in the 2005 and ’06 qualifiers – but it has been argued in the HDC’s favour that those groups were far more predictable than the three groups proposed.
Moroney pointed out the HDC document had been one of the materials the CCCC had consulted. “We did consider that,” he said, “but on a general point after wide ranging discussion about making space for the clubs in the fixtures calendar the feeling was that the proposal would be too much of an intrusion. It was one of the key issues that arose for the Football Review Committee in their research.
He also questioned whether it was a good idea to run two league-based competitions, in spring and in summer and emphasised the need to impose structures that allowed mobility between the grades.
“The original system hasn’t been fully implemented. Promotion and relegation were envisaged. Instead the MacCarthy Cup has increased in size and that has done the Christy Ring a disservice because its top teams have been promoted and there’s been nothing coming back.”