The provincial senior hurling championships will be played off as round-robin series from 2018 on a three-year period after it was passed by a small margin at Special Congress in Croke Park today, writes John Fogarty.
Of the 153 delegates, 62% of them backed the idea of two groups of five teams comprising the Munster and Leinster championships with each team playing four matches, two at home and two away. The counties finishing in the top two places in each provincial group play in their respective provincial final with the winners going through to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
The third-placed team in each province shall replace the two teams currently coming from the All-Ireland qualifier series. They meet the beaten provincial finalists on a cross-provincial basis. The winners of the new tier 2 championship shall replace the bottom team in the Leinster or Munster Championships, as appropriate, in the following year. All the lower tier competitions will also be played on a round-robin basis.
Antrim, Carlow, Kerry, Laois, Meath and Westmeath will comprise the new tier two but two of them will be able to compete for the Liam MacCarthy Cup after a Laois, Meath Offaly amendment was overwhelmingly supported. It proposed the tier two finalists qualify to meet the Munster and Leinster third-placed teams in All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.
However, Cork’s call for the current Munster SHC counties to be protected from relegation to the second tier was soundly defeated.
The Central Council motion was the first to be backed having passed the 60% mark – earlier this year Annual Congress chose to reduce the required two-third majority by 6%.
The vote on the motion preceded a proportional representation vote to decide which of the four motions in relation to changing the All-Ireland SHC would be decided on. The Central Council recommendation picked up 90 of the 153 votes.
The other three proposals were Cork’s call for a hurling Super 8 at Liam MacCarthy level, Dublin’s recommendation for a return of four All-Ireland quarter-finals and Tipperary’s proposal for a losers group running concurrently with the business end of the provincial championships.
In over an hour of debate and presentation (the four proposers being Frank Murphy (Cork), Tim Floyd (Tipperary), Seán Shanley (Dublin) and Mick Rock (Central Council), a plea from Kilkenny chairman Ned Quinn to delay a decision on changing the SHC until the Super 8 in football is experienced next year was rejected by GAA president Aogán Farrell on the basis that Central Council had endorsed it on a number of occasions. Former GAA president Nickey Brennan later stated he shared some of the concern raised by his fellow Kilkenny man.
Waterford chairman Paddy Joe Ryan said backing the Central motion would rank as one of the worst decisions in the history of the GAA. However, he later admitted that Waterford had not studied the other three motions too closely.
Special Congress will make decisions on the future of the All-Ireland U21 and minor hurling championships later this afternoon as well as a playing rule change in football so that all kick-outs pass the 20-metre line.