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A second-tier All-Ireland Football Championship moves one step closer

New deal: Malachy O’Rourke is staying with Monaghan
New deal: Malachy O’Rourke is staying with Monaghan

By Colm Keys

Central Council have, once again, given their approval to the establishment of a second-tier All-Ireland Football Championship.

At a meeting on Saturday, there was widespread approval, in principle, for a new competition that would run concurrently with the main Championship, finishing on the same day as the All-Ireland final and displacing the traditional minor final curtain-raiser in Croke Park.

The structure has yet to be worked out, but counties will be invited to make submissions to the Central Competitions Controls Committee (CCCC) who will consider a new format to be sent to next year's Congress.

A second-tier Championship is the stated aim of current GAA President John Horan during his three-year term.

But it is an ambitious move considering how badly it failed when it was previously set for Congress in 2016 and was withdrawn prior to the weekend because of a lack of support.

Central Council now feel, however, that the mood has changed, and with All-Ireland final day billing it would have the status that it needs to succeed.

Meanwhile, the All-Ireland football final will remain a September event in 2019.

By rule, the All-Ireland finals must now be completed by the end of August, but because September 1 is the 35th Sunday in the year, it must be played on this date to fall in line with the GAA's existing fixtures schedule.

Elsewhere, Monaghan manager Malachy O'Rourke has agreed an additional one-year extension to remain in the role until the end of the 2020 season.

The Farney county confirmed that O'Rourke has been ratified to stay on as manager for two more years in total after leading the team to the All-Ireland semi-final this year.

O'Rourke has enjoyed success since taking over Monaghan ahead of the 2013 season, winning Ulster titles in his first year and again in 2015, while progressing to the All-Ireland quarter-finals on five occasions.

This year was the first time Monaghan reached the final four since 1988, as they came up just one point short against Tyrone.

O'Rourke is currently the joint-second longest serving inter-county football manager along with Dublin's Jim Gavin. Tyrone boss Mickey Harte is the longest serving manager.

And Eamonn O'Hara has ruled himself out of the running for the Sligo football manager's job.

The former All-Star was tipped to replace Cathal Corey, who resigned last month after just one season, but he has decided to remain in charge of Tourlestrane along with Gerry McGowan as they seek a third straight Sligo SFC title.

During his short time as manager, Tyrone native Corey consolidated the Yeats County's position in Division Three of the Allianz League before leading them to a win over London in the Connacht SFC. But it was all downhill after that as they lost heavily to Galway (1-12 to 4-24) before being knocked out of the All-Ireland qualifiers by Armagh.

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