What could Today’s Special GAA congress mean for hurling?

So what are the major hurling motions up for discussion at today’s special congress and what are the possible effects on Limerick? There are quite a few proposals put forward regarding potential restructures to the All-Ireland senior, U21 and minor championships.

1. Liam MacCarthy Cup restructure

Richie McCarthy of Limerick in possession of the sliotar. Munster Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final, Limerick V Clare. 04/06/2017. Credit: Conor Wyse

The restructuring of the All-Ireland senior hurling championship will take centre stage on Saturday.

The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 2) are proposing to cut the number of teams competing in the competition to 10 teams. Both Leinster and Munster championships would contain 5 teams each and be played on a round robin basis. The top two teams in each provincial group face-off in the provincial final, while the third placed teams advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The bottom two teams in either group play-off to reach the quarter-finals. The quarter-final winners play the losing provincial finalists in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

It doesn’t end there as there are three proposals on the table to slightly tweek this formant.

Laois, Offaly, Meath (Motion 6) propose that the finalists from the Tier 2 competition meet the third placed teams in Munster and Leinster in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals.

Cork (Motion 7) Propose to remove the provision which potentially allows for one of the five Munster teams to be regraded to Tier 2 for the following year. It also proposes that should Kerry win Tier 2, they’d play in Leinster. It is unthinkable that any of the Munster teams would agree to have relegation in their group stage.

Tipperary (Motion 3) is proposing a similar 10-team provincial structure, but it’s to be played on a knock-out/losers group basis.

Dublin (Motion 4) putting forward no change to the provincial championships, but increases the All-Ireland quarter-finals to four games. Provincial champions and runners-up in Leinster and Munster meet one of four winners from Round 1 of the All-Ireland qualifiers.

Cork (Motion 5) proposes the same as the Dublin motion (above), but instead of four quarter-finals it proposes bringing in the ‘Super 8s’ similar to football.

2. Lower tiers in hurling

The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 2) proposes that the Tier 2 championship will include the four counties currently in the Leinster championship qualifier group and two other counties based on finishing positions in 2017 championship.

It would be run on a round-robin basis with the top two teams contesting the final. The winners would qualify for the Liam MacCarthy Cup the following year, replacing the bottom team in Leinster or Munster, as appropriate. Again this will be a stumbling block for the five big hurling counties in Munster as none of Cork, Clare, Limerick, Tipperary or Waterford would even consider the prospect of a season in the Christy Ring.

The counties in all three lower tiers (Ring/Rackard/Meagher) would be based on finishing positions in this year’s championship and played on a round-robin format.

3. All-Ireland U21 hurling championship

Limerick have two recent U21 All Ireland successes in 2015 and 2017

An age grade that Limerick have had great success at, especially over the last three years with two All Ireland titles. The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 9) proposes that Galway and any suitable Ulster teams (as agreed by Ulster & Leinster Councils) participate in Leinster. And the winners of Munster and Leinster shall play in the All-Ireland Final.

Considering Galway found themselves in an All Ireland semi final without playing a game while Limerick had to beat Tipp, Clare and Cork to get to the same stage demonstrates a flawed system.

Offaly (Motion 10) is proposing that Galway participate in Munster and any Ulster teams in Leinster. Again, While there is no doubt that Galway need to go somewhere, the Munster counties would be more likely to want to see Galway in Leinster like their senior counterparts which would make more sense.

Cork (Motion 11) proposes the All-Ireland semi-finals are retained, with Munster champions playing Leinster runners-up, and vice-versa.

4. All-Ireland minor hurling championship

The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 12) proposes that any suitable Ulster teams participate in Leinster. If the GAA are serious about promoting the game and improving the standard in the weaker counties then this needs to be implemented. Although how teams will be deemed suitable for the Leinster championship remains to be clarified.

Munster and Leinster champions will qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals, while the runners-up in both provinces and Galway compete in a round-robin All-Ireland series. The top two teams advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Rather than an unnecessary round robin of games, would it not make more sense to include Galway in one of the Leinster of Munster Championships?

5. Age grades (football & hurling)

The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 20) proposes that underage age grades at club level be altered from U12, U14, U16 and U18 to U11, U13, U15 and U17.

6. Playing rules (football)

The CCCC/Ard Chomhairle (Motion 21) proposes that the kick-out must pass the 20m line before a member of the defending team touches it.