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Shake-up will give counties a reprieve

By MArtin Breheney

Galway, Monaghan, Louth and Westmeath will be the big winners if a proposal to re-structure the Allianz Football League is accepted by Central Council on Saturday.

Galway and Monaghan were due to be relegated to Division 2 but will be granted a reprieve if the plan to increase Division 1 from eight to 16 counties (divided into two groups) is adopted.

Louth and Westmeath, the top two in Division 3 this year, were due to be promoted to Division 2 but are now in line to advance directly to the top flight.

Under the proposal, the following 16 counties will be in Division 1 (two groups of eight, decided by open draw) in 2012: Cork, Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Down, Armagh, Monaghan, Galway, Donegal, Laois, Derry, Tyrone, Kildare, Meath, Westmeath, Louth.

The top two in each section qualify for the semi-finals, which will return to the Division 1 schedule for the first time since 2007.

Divisions 2 and 3 will comprise of: Division 2 — Antrim, Sligo, Wexford, Offaly, Cavan, Tipperary, Roscommon, Longford; Division 3 — Limerick, Waterford, Wicklow, Fermanagh, Carlow, Clare, Leitrim, London, Kilkenny.

Up to a few years ago, the top 16 were divided into Divisions 1A and 1B, followed by 2A and 2B, with inter-linked promotion. The bottom two in Division 1A were replaced by the top two in 2A, similarly with 1B and 2B. However, this proposes retaining Divisions 2 and 3 in their current format.

The risk attached to separating teams by open draw is that it could produce a geographical imbalance, involving Leinster and/or Ulster counties, since they six counties in the top 16.

In theory, that could lead to six Leinster counties in one group and six from Ulster in the other, leaving only Cork, Kerry, Galway and Mayo as the ‘outsiders'.

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