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Proposal B the favoured choice at GAA’s Special Congress, but it may not pass

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Special Congress will be faced with two proposals to change the Championship format

Special Congress will be faced with two proposals to change the Championship format

©INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

Ulster chief Brian McEvoy isn't keen on proposals

Ulster chief Brian McEvoy isn't keen on proposals

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Special Congress will be faced with two proposals to change the Championship format

Next Saturday could prove to be a defining day in the history of the GAA.

A Special Congress at Croke Park will, among other business, consider two important proposals that, if either were to be carried, would see the All-Ireland Football Championship format as we know it completely overhauled.

Since the start of this month, debate and speculation in connection with the Congress have been stepped up considerably — so much so, indeed, that the event is now viewed as a landmark occasion given its potential significance.

While there are 10 motions in all due to come up for discussion, there is no doubt that the two proposals relative to the future format of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship are seen as the most important issues to come before Congress for a long time.

Proposal A calls for four provincial Championship conferences of eight teams — two teams from Leinster and one from Ulster enter the Connacht SFC with two from Leinster joining Munster.

There would be two round-robin groups per province, with the winners of each advancing to provincial Finals. Second and third-placed teams would progress to the first round of qualifiers with fourth-placed teams participating in the Tailteann Cup.

Proposal B urges that provincial Leagues should replace the current Allianz League in the spring. The All-Ireland Championship will be played on a League basis with the top five teams in Division One along with the Division Two table-toppers qualifying for All-Ireland Quarter-Finals. Second and third-placed Division Two teams as well as Division Three and Four winners would go through to preliminary Quarter-Finals with the winners of these games to fill the remaining two spots in the last-eight.

The Tailteann Cup line-up would comprise those Division Three and Division Four teams who don’t qualify for the knockout stages of the All-Ireland Championship.

GAA chiefs have already briefed county board delegates to Congress — only one representative from each county will be permitted to attend the in-person event — while other elements of the GAA, such as the GPA and Third Level sector, are also understood to have been familiarised with just what is involved.

Given that a proposal requires a 60% vote to prove successful, there is mounting speculation that there may not be a definitive outcome to the voting process next weekend.

Indeed, the GAA have confirmed that the pre-2018 All-Ireland SFC qualifier system is expected to return next year should neither of the two Championship proposals up for debate at Special Congress be successful. In such an event, the Central Competitions Control Committee recommends that “we revert to the current provincial Championship structures”.

While some sources suggest that there would appear to be strong backing for Proposal B, it remains to be seen if this will prove the case. It is believed, too, that some members of the calendar review task force that undertook a detailed study of the All-Ireland Championship before formulating the proposals for the Special Congress are not now as wedded to those proposals as they were.

Gaelic Players’ Association CEO Tom Parsons (below, left) has already intimated that the adoption of Proposal B “would breathe new life into the Association” because it would provide players with a greater number of guaranteed games in the earlier part of the year.

“I think this format will allow teams to develop at their own level,” states former Mayo player Parsons. “The potential for brutal mismatches is lessened considerably. This is about fairness at the end of the day.”

His remarks have been endorsed by the vast majority of GPA members but there is now a keen sense of anticipation to see whether county board delegates in particular follow their lead.

However, quite a few high-profile GAA personnel are against the scrapping of the provincial football Championships as we know them. In this respect, Ulster Council CEO Brian McAvoy (left) has been particularly outspoken for some time now.

“You have a situation here where your League and Championship rolls into one. Every League game is in effect a Championship game,” insists McAvoy. “You lose your first three or four games and you’re in danger of relegation but you’re also out of the Championship and you have already lost your main focus for the season.”


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