The format of the Munster minor football championship has been radically overhauled, with the new structure being far more favourable towards ensuring a Cork-Kerry decider.
Delegates at Thursday’s Munster Council meeting voted through a proposal which will see Clare, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford play one another in a round-robin system. The top two counties at the end of the three rounds of games will playoff to determine who joins Cork and Kerry in a second round-robin series. The top two from this latter round-robin will contest the Munster final.
For Clare, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford, it means a minimum of six games to reach the provincial decider. The new format does away with the semi-final stage which had proven so contentious in recent years as Cork, afforded no second chance as reward for winning their quarter-final, were knocked out by Kerry in the penultimate round in 2015, ‘17 and ‘18.
Munster Council chairman Jerry O’Sullivan said the new format found favour among the majority of delegatNew es at Thursday’s meeting.
“Originally, there was consideration given to sending the top two teams from the first round-robin series into the second round-robin with Kerry and Cork, but we were conscious not to overload young lads, so we left the second round-robin at three teams.
The old structure came under intense criticism following Cork’s 1-11 to 1-10 defeat to Kerry in the Munster semi-final in early May. Former Cork footballer Tony Davis tweeted that the provincial structure had become redundant, claiming the best teams should progress to the final. The Rebels hammered Waterford in their opener a month earlier and yet, had they come off second best against the Déise, they would have avoided the Kingdom at the semi-final stage.
In the 2015 Munster semi-final, Kerry overcame Cork by the minimum after extra-time in Austin Stack Park. That was Cork’s campaign done, with Kerry winning their next four matches en-route to All-Ireland glory by a margin of 10 points.
The 2017 and 2018 Munster finals were terribly one-sided affairs, with Kerry routing Clare by 24 and 20 points respectively.
“The new format avoids the situation that you had this year where Cork, desperately unlucky to lose to Kerry in the semi-final, were gone after their first defeat and had no second chance. Everybody accepted that what happened there wasn’t acceptable,” O’Sullivan added.
Dates for the 2019 Munster MFC round-robin games have not yet been confirmed.