Club bye plan welcomed but Ulster doubts remain

Three of the four provincial chairmen have backed the GAA calendar year workgroup’s call to provide All-Ireland semi-finalists with byes in the irrespective code’s provincial club championships.

The committee propose to facilitate counties with longer championship runs by making the provincial club draws in August, thereby allowing their club champions enter the competition after the preliminary round stages. Leinster already operate a form of what’s being forwarded but Ulster’s Martin McAlivney has questioned the need for seeding.

“We have yet to discuss it at committee or council level yet but if we get the structures and the calendar right we won’t need byes,” said the Monaghan native, whose province practice an open draw in both of their club and county championships.

“We shouldn’t have to look at byes. If we still have to put them in then there’s still something not right and something we have to work on.”

However, Munster chairman Robert Frost doesn’t see any great issue with the proposal. “It’s not a bad idea. The problem we’ve often had is making the draws early in the year so that we could let the counties know who they were playing. Going back four or five years ago, the draws were made at the end of September and you knew by then who had been in the All-Ireland final but it was changed. If this comes in then it comes in. Anything that will help the club situation we have no problem with it.”

Leinster chairman John Horan revealed the province have yet to make their 2015 provincial senior club draws so that they accommodate any of their counties who reach the latter stages of the All-Ireland senior championships.

While he accepts there’s an argument against the idea as it favours stronger counties, he pointed out the provincial success enjoyed by clubs from less successful counties in recent years.

“It’s accepted in Leinster you have to be realistic about teams who get to the latter end of the championship. If Kilkenny had been asked last year to play on the first day out they’d have been in trouble straight away. Counties can get caught out. We don’t have issues with this because it’s common sense. The clubs of the counties who haven’t reached those stages have an extra match in the Leinster championship and it gives them a bit of momentum before they play stronger teams.

“It hasn’t harmed Offaly with Kilcormac-Killoughey or Carlow with Mount Leinster Rangers or Westmeath with Raharney. They’ve been able to put together good runs after starting early. Ballyhale won it last year but if you’re being honest they shouldn’t have as Kilcormac-Killoughey threw it away. In football, Rhode reached the final this year and were out early.”

Also welcoming the prospect of London and British clubs into Connacht, the province’s chairman Frank Burke said: “I wouldn’t imagine that given the size of the province and the number of teams it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. In the other provinces, there are more rounds. “There’s also the prospect of London and British teams coming into Connacht and I personally would be delighted to see them accommodated.”

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