Quarter-final opportunity for hurling’s minnows

The winners of a new development group will earn a preliminary All-Ireland quarter-final spot in the new All-Ireland senior hurling championship if the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) have their way.

It is also being proposed that the All-Ireland semi-finals will be played over one weekend — one Saturday, one Sunday — as opposed to now when they are played on consecutive Sundays. That schedule would replicate the plan for the last four in the All-Ireland senior football championship from next year.

It had been reported last week that the top team in a developing section, similar to the current Leinster qualifying group, would qualify for the Leinster championship round-robin series. That would have meant as many as eight games in an intense period.

However, the CCCC will recommend that the development division, comprising four or five teams, runs concurrently with the two provincial competitions, where each team will have two home and two away fixtures. All three groups would start and finish in and around the same time.

The provincial finals will be contested by the top two teams in each five-team group with the winners earning an All-Ireland semi-final berth and the runners-up progressing to two quarter-finals along with the third best team in Munster.

The county that finishes third in Leinster will face the best finishers in the development group for the remaining qualifying spot. The CCCC foresee the Christy Ring Cup winners qualifying for the Liam MacCarthy Cup development group each year with the team who finishes bottom of the group being demoted to the second rung.

The idea of the development table-toppers making the last seven of the championship is a variation of the 2012 plan put forward by former Hurling Development Committee chairman Tommy Lanigan and director of games development Pat Daly.

Their structure proposed that the top two teams in the development group would face off against the third-placed provincial teams in preliminary quarter-finals.

The likes of Cork, Kilkenny and Tipperary are all believed to be in favour of the system even though it does away with the knock-out aspect of the provincial championships.

Clare and Waterford are also expected to endorse it as they will be guaranteed two home SHC games each year when Cusack and Walsh Parks have been largely unused for championship fare.

The CCCC are close to finalising their recommendations to the draft proposals, which will be presented to Central Council next month.

Should they give the restructure the green light, a Special Congress will take place in October with a mind to implementing the new championship next year to coincide with the new football model.

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