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Harbinson strikes chord as Tier Two vote looms

 

John Campbell

By John Campbell

It was Antrim football manager Lenny Harbinson who got in ahead of the posse in assessing the merits of the proposed introduction of a second-tier All-Ireland Football Championship.

Now, with voting on this proposal due to take place at tomorrow's Special Congress in Cork, delegates from a number of counties have already endorsed Harbinson's view in relation to how the new competition might be packaged.

"I have believed from day one when this idea was mooted that only with robust ongoing marketing, proper scheduling of fixtures and the competition perhaps in part being staged in tandem with the All-Ireland series proper will it have a chance of proving successful," maintained Harbinson.

A number of officials from different counties have expressed views on how the proposed new competition should be structured, with many emphasising the necessity for "robust marketing" as initially articulated by Harbinson.

With D-Day looming, there are now firm indications as to how some counties will vote on the matter while others are not prepared to show their hand until the vote is taken.

Leitrim, Limerick, Sligo, Waterford and Wicklow are all known to be among counties who will support the creation of a second-tier Football Championship.

Carlow, Laois, Longford, Tipperary and Offaly will vote against the proposal, with Ulster counties keeping their cards close to their chests for the moment.

The motion requires a 60% majority backing to succeed and it would appear to be very much touch and go whether it will be carried.

But should Special Congress pass the motion, then in 2020 only teams from Division One and Division Two of the Allianz Football League will be eligible for the All-Ireland qualifiers along with any counties from the lower two divisions that happen to make their respective provincial final.

Division Three and Four teams will instead go straight into a Tier Two Championship, which will be run on a straight knockout basis.

From 2021, the Tier Two winners would also be guaranteed a spot in the qualifiers, regardless of league placings.

This could potentially have ramifications for three Ulster counties in particular - namely Down, Derry and Antrim. The Mournemen and Oak Leafs are due to start the 2020 campaign in Division Three of the Allianz League, while the Saffrons will be down in Division Four.

Other motions down for consideration at Special Congress tomorrow include the introduction of some of the playing rules that were trialled earlier this year.

These include the introduction of the attacking mark, a 10-minute sin-bin rather than permanent substitution for players committing a black card offence and kick-outs now be taken from the 20m rather than the 13m line.

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