A Cork GAA sub-committee has proposed a new championship model which would see clubs play two championship games each summer without their inter-county players.
At last night’s Cork County Board meeting, the Cork GAA Games workgroup, which is a branch of the strategic review committee, unveiled three separate proposals to radically reshape county championship structures.
All three championship programmes centre on the creation of four tiers — Premier Senior, Senior A, Premier Intermediate and Intermediate A — of 12 teams each, with one of the proposals recommending clubs play two group games without their county players in the months of May, June, and July.
Under this format, the various championships would be structured into two groups of six; three of the group games would be played in April and August, when clubs line out with their county players, while two games would be staged during the summer months, when clubs would play without their county men.
A championship victory for a club playing without their county players would garner two points, with four points awarded for a victory when a club has their full complement.
The two other proposals are also modelled on group formats; Option A advocates three groups of four, with the first game played in April and the latter two run off in August; Option B recommends four groups of three, with the championship not throwing-in until after the inter-county season concludes.
One of the three proposals will be rubber-stamped at a county board meeting next week, but it is unlikely the proposal which would see clubs play games without their leading figures will be voted through, given this met vehement opposition at a recent club forum.
“There was a robust defence of the need for the inter-county players to play with their club, that was coming from clubs with inter-county players,” said Pat Horgan, chairperson of the strategic review implementation, group after that club forum.
The grading to determine which teams go into each of the four respective tiers (five in the case of hurling for 2020 and 2021) will be finalised at the end of 2019. Clubs have been presented with two grading processes.
The first is that teams are judged solely on their 2019 championship endeavours. The alternative is that championship performances stretching back to 2016, and including this year, are taken into account.
The eight quarter-finalists (excluding colleges and divisions) in this year’s Cork SFC and SHC will be guaranteed Premier Senior status next year.
The four remaining spots will be decided either by play-offs, involving the senior teams who fail to reach this year’s quarter-finals and excluding those dragged into a relegation fight, or the highest ranked teams based on championship performances from 2016-19.
The seven senior teams in either code who do not secure Premier Senior status for 2020 will be put into the Senior A competition with the 2019 Premier Intermediate finalists.
The remaining three spots will be decided by play-offs, involving the Premier Intermediate sides who don’t make this year’s last eight, but avoid the relegation scrap, or the highest ranked teams based on performances from this year and 2016-18.
The new-look Premier Intermediate hurling championship will comprise of the remaining 11 Premier Intermediate teams from this year’s competition and the 2019 intermediate champions; the 2020 PIFC will consist of the 10 Premier Intermediate teams from this year’s competition who do not make the Senior A Grade and the 2019 intermediate finalists.
At present, there are 61 hurling teams spread across senior (19), Premier Intermediate (16) and intermediate (26). In football, the figure of 53 is made up of 19 senior teams, 15 Premier Intermediate and 19 at intermediate. The plan is to gradually reduce the number of teams in both codes to 48 come the beginning of the 2022 championships.
In order to achieve this figure, a lower intermediate hurling grade (comprising of 12 teams) will be in operation for 2020 and 2021, while the Intermediate A football championship will have 16 teams during the same two years. At the end of 2021, these additional teams (12 in hurling and four in football) will be regraded to Junior.
Other format tweaks which will be introduced to ensure four tiers of 12 in three years time include: The bottom two teams in this year’s Cork IHC and Cork IFC will be relegated to junior.
At the end of 2021, two teams will be relegated from the Intermediate A hurling grade (fourth tier) to junior, along with the remaining 11 hurling teams in Lower Intermediate (fifth tier).
They will be replaced in the Intermediate A grade for 2022 by the previous year’s Lower Intermediate and Junior champions.
In football, five teams will be relegated from Lower Intermediate at the end of 2021, with that year’s county junior champions earning promotion.
The Games workgroup is made up of Jim Woulfe, Conor Counihan, Pat Ryan, Marc Sheehan, Ronan Dwane and county board CEO Kevin O’Donovan.
Irrespective of which proposal finds most favour, Cork will be represented in Munster from 2020 onwards by the Premier Senior, Premier Intermediate and Junior A champions.