In a normal year we’d know by now not only our full schedule of National League games for the following spring but also what the draw is for the next year’s provincial Championships. This year we still know neither of these things.
That’s because the structure of the inter-county football competitions for 2022 remain up in the air, with proposals on restructuring the Championship set to be debated at the GAA Special Congress on 23rd October. Both of the proposals would involve a major shake-up of the Championship, while the more radical one would suck the current National League into its format as well.
The two structural reform options have become known as Proposals A and B, though on the Clár for the Special Congress they’re Motions 18 and 19.
Proposal A would involve the retention of the Provincial Championships refashioned into four groups of eight. This would mean counties being shifted among the provinces to produce the required numbers in each group. After some preliminary matches to decide which counties were shifting provinces, the provincial Championships would then proceed on a round-robin basis, with qualifiers and a familiar knockout All-Ireland series thereafter.
Proposal B would decouple the provincial Championships from the All-Ireland, which would instead be fused with the National League. The Provincial Championships would act as the curtain-raiser for the inter-county year played in spring, with the League-based Championship following in the summer but not linked in any way to the Provincials. The round-robin phase of this Championship would produce a final eight and a knockout All-Ireland series from there on.
The two proposals, as well as all the other motions on the Clár for the Special Congress are explained in greater detail here.
For either of the two reform proposals to succeed they need to get at least 60% support at Congress. If Proposal A attains this, then Proposal B won’t get a hearing. If A and B both fail then the structure reverts that which pertained up to 2017, with qualifiers but without the so-called Super Eights.
Proposal B is the one that has built up most support in recent weeks, with the GPA having come out strongly in favour of it recently. Players such as Tyrone’s Niall Morgan and Clare’s Podge Collins have also been in the media backing this reform option. An analysis by former Meath Minor manager Conor O’Donoghue has estimated that Proposal B could rake in an extra €10m in revenue for the GAA.
But support for this option isn’t universal. Ulster GAA Council Secretary Brian McAvoy castigated the proposal, branding it “the worst motion I ever saw on a Congress Clár.” Jim McGuinness also voiced strong opposition to the proposal a few weeks back.
Most GAA people see the need for change but even among proponents of change there’s uneasiness about both proposals on offer. Cahir O’Kane in the Irish News summed up the shortcomings of Proposal B well, making the point that while it had much to commend it, the flaws inherent in it are “crippling”.
He has a point. The key flaw in the proposal is that teams finishing outside the top five of Division One in the League phase of the Championship would then be eliminated, while the top two teams in Divisions Two, as well as the top team in Divisions Three and Four would play off to see which of them would go forward to the All-Ireland quarter-finals. Try as you might to make some sense of such an arrangement, you have to conclude that it’s bonkers.
Which then leads to the question of whether or not Congress should – à la Boris Johnson and Brexit – vote to get a reformed structure in place and then seek to fiddle with the details later. No more than the UK Government’s approach to international treaties, however, I’m not sure there’d be much merit in Congress going down that route on Saturday week.
The expectation appears to be that Proposal A hasn’t a prayer and while Proposal B will likely garner more support it won’t hit the 60% threshold that’s required to carry the day. With the GPA pushing hard, though, that level of support is most likely getting closer all the while. It appears telling, however, that neither GAA President Larry McCarthy nor DG Tom Ryan have voiced support for it.
Personally, while I would be strongly in favour of a shift to a League-based Championship, I think the flaws within the Proposal B option are too great and, if I had a vote on Saturday week, I’d be voting against both reform proposals.
What about the rest of you – do you support Proposal A, Proposal B or neither of them? Let’s end with a vote on the options.
Which Championship structure proposal do you support?
- Neither of them (50%, 390 Votes)
- Proposal B (46%, 359 Votes)
- Proposal A (5%, 36 Votes)
Total Voters: 785