O'Byrne Cup set for new league format
Changes to the GAA’s close-season regulations has prompted the Leinster Council to propose a major revamp of the O’Byrne Cup – guaranteeing each county at least three games.
With some counties now permitted to return to training as early as next week, and the remainder following soon afterwards, the appetite for pre-season games has apparently been refreshed, or at least the timing of them deemed more suitable.
The Leinster Council has proposed that the O’Byrne Cup be played off on a league basis, involving four groups of four, consisting of 11 counties (with Kilkenny opting out) and five college teams. This gives each team in each group at least three games, played off on a league basis, with the four best then progressing to a semi-final, the winners there going on into the final.
“I think with the rule change in the closed season, there was an appetite there for more games, at that time of year,” said Leinster council secretary Michael Delaney.
“At least this is what’s been proposed by most of the counties, something they were calling for. Unlike before, when teams were only back in training on January 1st, they’ll now have had a few weeks training behind them, and be more ready for the games.”
The Connacht Council already plays its pre-season football competition on a league basis, and Ulster’s Dr McKenna Cup is also divided into groups, leaving only Munster’s McGrath Cup operating on a strict knock-out basis.
The new format to the O’Byrne Cup will also mark the end of the O’Byrne Cup Shield, which had been the losers’ group competition, although the Walsh Cup in hurling will continue in the existing knock-out format.
In recent years, no intercounty collective training was allowed in November or December, but this down period has now been staggered according to when counties excited the championship, with those beaten in June in fact permitted to return to training next Thursday. This continues up until December 29th, when the All-Ireland finalists in both football and hurling are allowed to resume.
The closed season was originally brought in to help address issues of burn-out, but now, it seems, counties are already eager for more games in January.
The inclusion of college teams in pre-season competitions has also been contentious, as in some cases they were given first pick on intercounty players.
Leinster decided last year that colleges could name 10 intercounty players, and counties had call on the rest, but there was also some conflict of interest as college teams were using the competition in preparation for Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup fixtures.
The Leinster Council are in the process of agreeing all the dates and venues for their 2013 championships but have ruled out a proposed Friday evening date for the football quarter-final between Kildare and Offaly which will now go ahead as a Sunday fixture.