Ahead of Saturday’s Central Council meeting to discuss a possible motion for the 2017 season, Clare, Tipperary and Waterford are set to oppose any of the proposals that redirect weaker counties into a lower tier following the end of their provincial interests.
Limerick have put forward their own recommendation, calling for the end of the league in two years’ time and the championship to be split into two after league-based provinces with “Competition One” comprising the 16 teams that finish in Division 1 and 2 at the end of next year’s national league. “Competition Two” would be made up of Division 3 and 4 counties. Cork as well as Kerry officials will meet among themselves in the coming days to discuss which of the 18 proposals each county will support.
Tipperary have signalled their intentions to back Carlow’s championship blueprint. Carlow are calling for the retention of the qualifiers but on a graded basis whereby the 2016 provincial finalists are handed byes into the last 16 of the All-Ireland series in 2017. The eight semi-finalists would qualify for round two where they would face the first round winners. The first round would be made up of third and fourth seeds based on their league standings.
As they suggest the provincial and All-Ireland series run concurrently, Carlow believe their structure would cut the gaps that currently exist between the competitions, meaning clubs would have more fixtures certainty.
“We’re looking at the Carlow one,” said Tipperary secretary Tim Floyd. “It’s the one we favoured the most because you’re graded on how you fared the previous year and unlike now, you could play your first qualifier and not have to hang around for weeks. You can proceed with the qualifiers straight away. It gives more time for club matches and gets games moving fast.”
Clare have taken soundings from their football managements and there is no appetite for a Tommy Murphy Cup-like competition even if there is an incentive for a county to win their way back into the Sam Maguire Cup.
“We’ll likely be supporting something that sticks with the status quo,” said the county’s Central Council delegate John Fawl. “We would not be too interested in the All-Ireland being split in two. We’ve spoken to selectors and that would be their preference.”
Waterford chairman Paddy Joe Ryan has long supported the All-Ireland SFC being retained as one competition. “We should be all aspiring to play and try and beat the likes of Cork and Kerry. There are only 32 counties and every county should have that aspiration to face the best. That would be my own thinking.”
However, Limerick have taken a different stance . As part of their system, “Competition One” would see four groups of four with the table-toppers and two best runners-up qualify for quarter-finals. To join them in the last eight, the other two runners-up would face off against the finalists from “Competition Two” or provincial winners if they haven’t already qualified. “Competition Two” would run along the same lines as “Competition One” with two teams going up and two going down every year.
“We believe that players from all counties should have the opportunity to win a national title,” said Limerick football committee chairman John Cregan. “Right now, you’re only seeing a weaker team making advances in the qualifiers but then all of a sudden they face a strong county and they’re out.
“What we would like to see is counties playing against teams of their own abilities. Let the teams from Division 3 and 4, who are roughly of the same standard, compete against one another.”