The first county to release a blueprint for change, which they have submitted to Croke Park for consideration, propose breaking the link between the provincial championships and the All-Ireland series in the current year to facilitate fixture-making.
Although there are All-Ireland SFC benefits for going further in the provincial competitions and the National League in the previous season, Carlow foresee provincial and straight knock-out All-Ireland series running almost concurrently.
The plan would maintain the tradition of Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster finals being decided in July, but suggests the All-Ireland SFC begins in May, rather than the current situation where qualifiers don’t start until the end of June.
Rather than establish a “B” competition, Carlow argue counties like themselves should face a county at a similar level in the first round of the championship. The lower seeded county, which would be determined by league placings in the previous season’s competition, would have home advantage.
The winners progress to round two to face a “tier two” team where the round one winners would have home advantage. The victors of that tie qualify for the last 16 of the All-Ireland SFC where they play one of the best eight teams, those who contested the previous year’s provincial finals, for quarter-final spots.
Carlow secretary Gerard Lennon is confident their recommendation is fair to all counties and will facilitate more space in the calendar for club fixtures.
“The four provincial championships are still there. It would be very hard to get any other system through without incorporating the provincial championships.
“The main advantage, we think, with this proposal is we know when the counties are playing because as it stands whoever loses the preliminary round of the Leinster Championship has to wait five or six weeks to play the first round qualifier. But with this system, you could play the first round of the Leinster Championship one week and play the first round of the All-Ireland the following Sunday.
“The fixtures can be made six months in advance and everybody, the board, the club, the manager, knows when and who they’re playing. There is no back door either. You either keep winning or you don’t.” Lennon says the break between the provincial and All-Ireland games for counties has held up club fixtures. “The county team is training during that spell and the clubs are waiting. Three quarters of our clubs are dual clubs. We can’t play the Carlow senior hurling or football championship when one of our county teams are playing and that goes down the line to intermediate and junior as well.
“With this system, there is no five or six-week break for the back door. June is the finest month for playing matches and we’re losing out there by waiting on the back door as are most of the counties.”
Carlow are waiting to hear back from Croke Park about their proposal, which is likely to be considered, along with the GPA’s blueprint, before Central Council vote on forwarding one as a motion to Congress next year with a mind to it being introduced for the 2017 season.
The Carlow plan
The All-Ireland championship will be seeded; the eight teams who contest the provincial finals will be the top seeds with the beaten semi-finalists deemed as second seeds.
Third and fourth seeds will be determined by final league positions;
In round 1, the eight fourth seed teams play the eight third seed teams with home advantage given to the fourth seeds.
The winners face the eight second seed teams in round 2 with the round 1 winners awarded home advantage. For both rounds, counties from the same province will be separated where possible;
In round 3, the eight top seeds face the winners of round 2 with the victors going forward into All-Ireland quarter-finals, the ties subject to an open draw. No duplication of provincial pairings are permitted.