The GAA this morning voted to introduce the “Super 8” All-Ireland senior football championship from next year, writes John Fogarty.
Against the wishes of the GPA and Club Players Association (CPA), a total of 76% of delegates endorsed the All-Ireland quarter-finals being replaced by two round-robin groups of four teams, meaning an eight additional games.
Congress delegates in Croke Park also backed moving the All-Ireland senior finals from their traditional September dates to August. While they also voted in favour of extra-time being applied to all non-final championship matches.
Thirteen of 15 speakers – the dissenters being GPA chief executive Dermot Earley and Cork administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan – spoke positively about the championship reformat. Former GAA president Seán Kelly supported the experimental aspect of it – it will come in for three years from 2018 and will have to be receive backing at Congress again – and mentioned the dramatic drop in attendances at SFC matches.
The likes of Cavan, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Meath, Mayo, the Middle East and playing rules committee chairman Jarlath Burns highlighted the advantages of the Super 8. Without mentioning his fellow Ulsterman, Burns hit out at Joe Brolly’s recent criticising “attack” on GAA president Aogán Farrell in relation to his attitude towards clubs.
European Board delegate Tony Bass aimed his ire at the CPA for not putting forward their own proposals for consideration, mentioning “those who hurl the abuse from the sidelines”.
Prior to the “Super 8” vote, Laois’ proposal to bring in a round-robins series for the 16 teams in the first round of the All-Ireland qualifiers was soundly defeated with only 25% seeing value in it.
Despite strong arguments from Cork secretary Frank Murphy, 78% of delegates voted for the All-Ireland finals to move to August from 2018 to 2020. It is likely that the All-Ireland senior football final will take place on August 27 and the hurling decider two weeks earlier on August 13. Murphy explained that as a county so invested in both codes, they would find it extremely difficult to schedule club games during the summer if the inter-county championship is condensed.
An impressive 91% in Congress gave their support for the facility of extra-time at all championship games other than provincial and All-Ireland deciders.
Also decided this morning was the introduction of a rule which makes betting on a game in which one is involved a discredit to the GAA offence with penalties for an individual ranging from eight weeks to expulsion. The GPA were also given the power to put forward one motion to Congress every year.
From next year, Christy Ring Cup winners will be allowed to compete in the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers in the same year they claim the second tier competition title.