Cork GAA clubs will back revamp of inter-county football format

A special county board meeting tonight is expected to rubber-stamp Cork's approval of Option B at Saturday's special Congress
Cork GAA clubs will back revamp of inter-county football format

Cork captain Ian Maguire signals for a change in the inter-county format. INPHO/Ryan Byrne

CORK clubs are expected to give a thumbs up to a change in next season’s football format at a special remote county board meeting tonight.

They are set to mandate Cork’s delegation to Saturday’s special congress at Croke Park to back Proposal B in the vote.

There are two motions on the agenda with a minimum 60 percent vote in favour needed to change the existing league and championship formula.

If neither passes, then it’s a continuation of the same, league followed by provincial championships and Super 8s in the All-Ireland Championship, the third and final year of that experiment.

The proposals are far-wide and ranging and would turn the season as we know upside down.

Cork’s support will back Kevin O’Donovan, the board’s CEO/Sec, who was on the Croke Park committee which devised the motions.

They should have been dealt with at the annual Congress, but Covid impacted and left the association needing to put back any decisions until later in the year.

The Gaelic Players Association have come out in strong support of Proposal B, which has the overwhelming approval of its members.

Ulster are leading the charge to maintain the status quo and much of the recent debate has surrounded the thorny area of finance and the effects Covid has had on all sports.

The obvious concerns for clubs centre on the effects of change on their inter-county contingent when they return for the club season.

 Kevin O'Donovan, CEO/Secretary Cork County Board, was on the Croke Park committee which drafted the motions. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Kevin O'Donovan, CEO/Secretary Cork County Board, was on the Croke Park committee which drafted the motions. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Proposal 'A' would see the provincial championships retained, although they would be altered to create four groups of eight.

Two Leinster counties would switch to Munster and one to Connacht, while one Ulster county would also head west to balance the numbers.

The Preliminary Round in Leinster will have three games involving the six lowest placed teams at the end of the league in that championship year.

The winners advance to the round-robin phase and the losers head south or west, the decisions to be made by the Central Competitions Control Committee on geographical grounds.

There would be one Preliminary Round game in Ulster with the winner staying put and the loser directed to Connacht.

Each province would then be broken down into two groups of four for a round-robin phase.

The winner of each group will progress to the relevant provincial final.

The second and third-placed teams (16 in total) will progress to Round 1 of the All-Ireland.

The fourth-placed team in each group will participate in a knock-out Tailteann Cup provided they are classified as a Division 3 or 4 team at the end of the National League in the same year.

There would then be three rounds of 'qualifiers' to determine the four teams who would take on the provincial champions in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

* Round 1 - Second-placed teams from provincial round robins vs third-placed teams (eight games) * Round 2 - Winners of Round 1 drawn against each other * Round 3 - Beaten provincial finalists v Round 2 Winners From there, the championship would finish with traditional quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

Proposal ‘B’ would essentially move the National League format into the championship with each team playing seven matches in their respective divisions before filtering into an All-Ireland series.

In the 'Preliminary' All-Ireland quarter-finals, the teams that finish second and third in Division 2 would be drawn to play the teams that finish top of Divisions 3 and 4.

In the All-Ireland quarter-finals, the top four teams from Division 1 would be drawn to play against the team that finishes fifth in Division 1, the Division 2 winners and the winners of the 'Preliminary' quarter-finals.

The All-Ireland semi-finals and final would then follow. The Tailteann Cup would provide for the teams from Divisions 3 and 4 that did not qualify for the All-Ireland series.

The provincial championships would be retained, but as standalone competitions earlier in the year.

Under this proposal, every county would be guaranteed at least 11 games a year in a calendar comprising 216 games in total, 34 more than the Super 8 format and 39 more than a qualifier-Tailteann Cup.

Its proposed spring provincial leagues would see 81 matches played rather than 27 in the current provincial championship format.

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