Confirmed: How 2018 hurling championship might look
Proposals would mean Leinster and Munster Championships would be on round-robin basis
Aogán Ó Fearghail is hopeful that the proposals will also help ease the club fixture problems. Photograph: Inpho
The GAA have confirmed their proposed restructuring of the All-Ireland hurling championship, across all three grades, on a three-year trial basis from 2018 to 2020.
The revamped All-Ireland senior hurling championship would consist of two provincial championships and a provincial qualifier group; the Leinster and Munster Championships would be played off on a round-robin basis, so there would be five rounds of four matches each.
Each team would have two home and two away matches, with the two teams finishing in the top two places in each group qualifying for their respective provincial final. The winners of the provincial finals would qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals with the defeated provincial finalists qualifying for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
The third placed team in both championship groups would remain in the championship, with a pathway open to them to qualify for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
On a rolling two-year cycle basis, the third placed team in each province would either progress directly to the All-Ireland quarter-final or else play the winner of the provincial qualifier group in a play-off for a place in the quarter-finals.
Concerns had been expressed that hurling would suffer from having so few matches
The proposals will be considered by Central Council at its meeting on Saturday, June 17th, and could see major changes to the senior, under-21, and minor hurling championships beginning from next year: if agreed Central Council will also decide if there is a basis for calling a Special Congress later this year.
This is first official disclosure of the proposal that could see hurling follow a similar pathway to football, which in 2018 will have a round-robin format for the last eight counties in the championship. Concerns had been expressed that hurling would suffer from having so few matches in August compared to football.
In 2018 the provincial qualifier group would consist of Laois, Westmeath, Kerry, Antrim, and Carlow.
The CCCC’s proposals were formulated to ensure significant club-only periods would be maintained between the end of the league and the beginning of the senior championships; and that August (except for the All-Ireland semi-finals and final) and subsequent months would be left free for club competitions.
Association president Aogán Ó Fearghail, speaking at a media event last month, said he was hopeful that the new plan would be approved in time for next year’s hurling championship.
I think we’re going to reform the calendar in a positive way for clubs
“It can of course. We need to do something similar. We have the broad outline of a plan there. Again it will be Central Council that will lead on it. It has to be but myself and the Ard Stiúrthóir have written to our various committees here and shown them a broad outline of a plan for the reform of the hurling championship that would be broadly similar to football; more games at the end stages but again in a tighter period.
“I think it needs to happen because we could never do anything that might damage hurling and there was always the chance that if you had a lot more football it could have that impact.
“So I think we’re going to reform the calendar in a positive way for clubs and there’ll be space for clubs and more exciting competitions in both football and hurling. How Central Council chooses to deal with that is a matter for them and it’s a possibility we could have a special congress and if Central Council agree, then yes”
Parallel to the rising clamour for reformed championship structures has been growing concern about the fractured and chaotic schedules for club players and how the inter-county season has been impacting on that situation. This has given rise to the emergence of the Club Players’ Association, which has been advocating fixed club schedules and a reduced inter-county championship.
The president said that there had been engagement with the CPA, whose concerns he said are shared by the Croke Park administration: “We showed the CPA and different groups that . . . there are a lot of committees in Croke Park who are looking at it. I have always since I started out wanted Central Council to lead on these processes and they will.
“So at the June meeting I am hopeful we will be able to show quite a substantial fixture program that I believe - it’s not complete yet but it will show we are very determined - will make a substantial change to our fixture programming in line with Congress decisions.”
The proposals in full can be read here.