From 2020, Gaelic football will have a second tier championship for the first time in 12 years after Special Congress backed the motion in Páirc Uí Chaoimh this afternoon,
In what can be described as a success for GAA president John Horan, 75.5% of delegates backed the Central Council motion, which calls for the qualifiers to comprise 16 teams and the lower 16 to enter the new T2 championship.
At Central Council earlier in the day, the decision was taken to debate Motion 2 first, which involved how the make-up of the proposed competition.
Tipperary insisted that Division 3 and 4 counties who don’t reach their provincial championship finals be determined as those at the end of the Championship year as opposed to those at the beginning and it received considerable 87.5% support.
The winners of the new knock-out competition in 2020 will qualify for the Sam Maguire Cup qualifiers the following season.
Former GAA president Seán Kelly, who saw through the previous second tier competition the Tommy Murphy Cup, endorsed the new championship structure and insistedshould show its semi-finals and final. Nickey Brennan, who held the office after Kelly, argued any second tier championship finals should replace the minor deciders as the curtain-raisers to the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cup finals.
Opposing the motion and expressing fear about how it will be marketed, Antrim chairman Ciarán McCavana had argued that their experience of hurling’s second tier competition the Joe McDonagh Cup was that many promises are made but not delivered on. He added there was not a top 16 in inter-county Gaelic football but a top four and cutting the number of teams in the Sam Maguire Cup would pave the way for pay-for-play.
Carlow chairman Seán Campion echoed Antrim’s scepticism about the tiered championship and said assurances given about the Joe McDonagh Cup were not forthcoming, claiming the All-Stars scheme was “a botched job”.
Prior to the vote, Horan revealed a text message fromHead of Sport Declan McBennett to a Croke Park staff member yesterday that he was confident the second tier competition would receive live coverage.
Several Division 4 counties such as Limerick, Sligo and Wicklow endorsed the motion, while the Gaelic Players Association secretary Seamus Hickey, like Cork chairperson Tracey Kennedy, highlighted the fixtures review committee’s work and why Central Council was not prepared to wait for their proposals.