Cork GAA bosses will bring a motion to Special Congress later this month recommending that the concluding stages of the All-Ireland SHC be structured in identical fashion to the 2018 football championship: Two groups of four teams, run off on a round-robin basis, would replace the All-Ireland quarter-finals, with the top two in either group advancing to the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Croke Park want the provincial hurling championship format changed to round-robin, with the All-Ireland quarter-finals to comprise of the beaten provincial finalists and the third placed team from both Leinster and Munster.
The Cork County Board are stringently opposed to such a move. Chairman Ger Lane yesterday insisted it would make far more sense to introduce a round-robin at the end of the hurling championship, not the beginning.
If Croke Park’s proposal received the green light at Special Congress on September 30, club activity in Cork during the months of April, May, and June would effectively be wiped out.
The club scene in July, however, is practically non-existent, hence the decision of the Cork executive to favour a hurling Super 8s once the qualifiers and provincial championships have been completed in mid-summer.
There were only five senior club matches (three hurling, two football) played in Cork throughout July. This figure stands in stark contrast to the 30 games (15 senior hurling, 15 senior football) run off across April and May.
“We conducted analysis on the amount of adult championship games we have played during the month of July over the past five years. The average is 13 games, that’s minuscule. Our motion is realistic and cognisant of Cork’s situation, which encompasses a huge amount of club games early in the summer,” said Lane.
“Under the current proposal by Croke Park, we would see the big issue for us as having no club games during the months of May and June, and April were you to reach a league final. There is an acceptance that some change is needed, but we felt the proposals put forward didn’t help Cork.
“Our motion is trying to protect club activity at a time of year when we need to play games. We have a massive programme of games and it is probably not the same in other counties. We couldn’t run our championships by starting them in July. It simply wouldn’t work.”
With the introduction of the football Super 8s next year, there will be 15 championship games played upon conclusion of the qualifiers. For hurling, under the current format and, indeed, the motions put down by Croke Park and Tipperary, there will be just five.
Lane believes hurling would benefit from more high-profile games at the business end of proceedings.
“This Special Congress was brought forward by Croke Park as a result of the Super 8s in football. If they are trying to give hurling prominence to match the football, their
proposal is not really doing that, because you have all the hurling at the start of the year and then all the football at the end of the year.
“You would expect Cork to be involved at the concluding stages of the championships and so, therefore, you could end up having no club activity at the start of the year and none at the end of it, either. With our proposal, you have both round-robins running at the same time.
That won’t curtail club activity to the same extent.
“Hurling is such a super game, we saw it last weekend in all its glory, and we feel it is a pity to be changing the Munster championship from its present format after so many great years. At the same time, there is a mood for change and if we just put forward a motion saying retain the status quo, I don’t think it would fly.”
Lane added: “Was the Croke Park proposal passed, we would then need to look at the format of our own county championships. That’s am conversation for another day.”
Meanwhile, members of the Club Players Association are considering holding an
official protest at Special Congress. CPA top-brass yesterday contacted their 27,000 members, encouraging them to support a protest.
Its email reads: “A chara, the feedback we’ve received from our members in recent months has confirmed the following:
“There’s a huge level of frustration throughout the country with the scheduling of club fixtures. Efforts by GAA officials to resolve the problem are completely inadequate.
“The CPA must step up its efforts to ‘Fix the Fixtures’. In the absence of motions that adequately address the club fixtures crisis, are you in
favour of the CPA holding a protest at the forthcoming Special Congress at Croke Park on September 30th to highlight the dissatisfaction of ordinary club players?”