This season we bid adieu to one senior All-Ireland championship structure with the likelihood of another also falling by the wayside. Then there’s the prospect of the minor and U21 hurling competitions being altered in time for next year. But what are and aren’t we going to miss about the current way we do things in inter-county hurling and football? asks John Fogarty
That invincibility factor
Up to this year at least, the All-Ireland champions in football could lose a maximum of once. With the introduction of the Super 8 from next year, they can conceivably lose on three occasions – once in a province and twice in the Super 8. The argument is the Super 8 will ensure the cream rises to the top but the champions won’t be as pure if they have been beaten more often. At the same time, if a team goes all the way without suffering a defeat they’ll be seen in a greater light. As hurling looks to incorporate a home and away arrangement at the provincial stages, it too will surrender a large knock-out aspect.
Ulster All-Ireland champions
It goes almost without saying those northern teams with designs on All-Ireland success are going to find it more difficult from 2018. The most competitive province going back to the 1990s and possibly beyond, it is a gauntlet in itself but now another one follows in the form of the Super 8 ‘quarter-finals’. Pity the two teams drawn in the first round of the province next season. To win Ulster and reach an All-Ireland semi-final, they will have to win their first four ties and at least pick up a win in the following three. Lose that game and they must win four straight qualifier games to play another three. Jumping from the chip pan into the fire.
The build-up hype
As games become more frequent, the space to bill them will be greatly reduced. For one, playing the All-Ireland SFC semi-finals over the same weekend will mean the build-up leading up to the two days is shared between the two games. Plus, they come just a week after the the final round of the Super 8 series. Don’t be surprised if the hurling semi-finals are also played over a single weekend. Some games aren’t worth a week of a build-up, others are.
Not the same as build-ups, obviously. We’re talking about the staggeringly long breaks some counties experienced between league and championship not to mention the yawning gaps Munster hurling champions have had prior to All-Ireland semi-finals. As the length of the championship is contracted, its natural teams won’t be sitting on their hands as much as they have been doing, which can only be a good thing, providing there is still a healthy amount of club activity in the inter-county down-time.
Single day weekends
There weren’t too many of them in the first place and this weekend sees the rare occurrence of two Ulster championship matches one day after another. Qualifiers meant from the end of June there were few if any Saturdays vacant in championship scheduling and as the provincial championship run-offs now tighten they are going to be filled from early May. Championship Saturday is not championship Sunday but it’s getting close.
September All-Ireland finals
There are those of us who measure their years by putting their clocks back an hour in late October and then there are those of us who feel the cold as soon as the last whistle of the All-Ireland football final is blown. The summer will well and truly have ended when the last of the two All-Ireland finals is completed next August. One imagines the GAA have already begun speaking to hotels in Dublin in the hope that some sort of pre-booking arrangement can be done ahead of what is the end of high season. As if demand for hotels in Killarney in July isn’t high enough, it will grow further with almost a guarantee of a home game there every year from 2018. The GAA hopes the intensity of games will offset losing September but we can only wait and see.
July provincial finals
As part of the rescheduling of the All-Ireland championships, all six provincial finals in the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups will take place a month earlier. As part of the draft schedule released at the end of last year, the Munster football and Leinster hurling finals would take place on the first weekend of June followed by the Connacht football and Munster hurling deciders the next weekend. The Leinster and Ulster football finals would complete the provincial rota by the end of the month. The structures we once knew won’t be the same and the timing? Well, our understanding of it will be all skewed.
An unpredictable calendar
As part of the football proposals coming in next year, extra-time will decide all championship games in both codes bar All- Ireland and provincial finals should teams not be separated at the end of normal time. That means the championship schedule will become more dependable. Replays will likely be pencilled in for the weekend following the drawn deciders. We won’t have issues like the drawn Kerry-Cork Munster final two years ago, which took place a ridiculous 13 days after the first game and left deflated Cork just seven days to a qualifier against Kildare and were pummelled.
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