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‘System down’ and provincial winners bypassing favoured round robin options as CCCC seeks county opinion on All-Ireland SFC restructuring

COUNTIES have been asked to focus either on a system that mimics the Down clubs’ championship or one that sees the provincial champions skip the group stage amid debate over the latest proposed restructuring of the All-Ireland SFC.

A draft discussion document was sent to the counties, presenting proposals for the sixth format of the championship since 2017.

The qualifiers, introduced in 2001, last ran in 2017, followed by two years of Super 8s, two years of cups due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to qualifiers with the introduction of the Tailteann Cup and now the current system, which includes a round-robin series.

GAA president Jarlath Burns has voiced his support for the new system in recent weeks, echoing concerns about a team losing three Championship games yet still staying in the competition, as Derry did this summer.

Of the six options, the CCCC “recommends that counties give special consideration to Propositions 1 and 2 because we believe they are feasible and reasonably address some of the issues… with the current SFC structure.”

Option one is essentially a return to the original qualification system, but with an added loophole for teams that lose the first round qualifiers.

The backdoor structure would be similar to that of the Down Club Championship, with the winners and losers of the first round being separated and playing each other. Teams that win their first two matches would advance to the last eight, while those that lose their first two matches would be eliminated.

Option two would retain elements of the current round robin format, but the winners of the provincial competitions would bypass the group stage and qualify directly for the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The Sam Maguire round robin competition will feature 12 teams divided into four groups of three teams, with only the top team from each group advancing to the top eight.

The Tailteann Cup would be retained under the proposal, but seeded teams would be able to wait even longer, potentially up to nine weeks without a match.

While the promotion presents this as a reward for winning the provincial championship, the document admits that the winners of the Connacht and Munster titles would have five weeks without a match and then face the quarter-finals of the knockout stages, while the Ulster and Leinster champions would have a four-week break.

Despite these significant drawbacks, the CCCC recommended that counties consider this proposal as one of their two main options.

There are four further proposals that counties have been asked to consider. They are:

– Adding a third tier of Championship, while retaining 16 teams in Sam Maguire and splitting the remaining 17 into eights and nines.

– Return to the pre-2018 qualification system, i.e. the knockout phase after the provincial championships.

– Split the provincial championships into a Sam Maguire/Tailteann Cup, although, as the document admits, this would be almost impossible and the CCCC does not support any further development in this direction.

– Moving the provincial championships to the beginning of the year, followed by the league and championships played in a round robin format.

The final proposal mentioned but rejected the idea of ​​separating the provincial championships from the All-Ireland, while also listing the supposed flaws in the idea.

In all six proposals counties have the option to opt for a different Tailteann Cup structure to that of the All-Ireland SFC if they so wish.

The document recommends that counties give “particular consideration to proposals 1 and 2” but would welcome “widening debate on the remaining (four) proposals.”

“Depending on the outcome of consultation with our counties, the CCCC may decide to submit the Ard Chomairle proposal for further consideration in the autumn,” it said.