GAA announces major football restructure proposal

The GAA has proposed radical changes to the structure of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship which includes replacing the All-Ireland quarter-finals with a group stage.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy unveiled the plans at Croke Park in an attempt to condense the inter-county season and aid the club championships. Under the proposals the National League semi-finals would be scrapped, allowing the provincial championships to start earlier and with tighter scheduling.

 And as “so-called less successful counties have no interest in taking part in a second-tier competition” the format of the championship would be as follows:

Provincial championships
Knock-out format as at present

All-Ireland qualifier series
Round 1: 16 teams that do not qualify for provincial semi-finals
Round 2: Eight round 1 winners play eight defeated provincial semi-finalists
Round 3: Eight round 2 winners play each other on an open-draw basis
Round 4: Four round 3 winners play four provincial runners-up

Division Three or Four teams would have home advantage against Division One or Two teams in the first three rounds of qualifiers, while the ‘A’ and ‘B’ format of the draw would be scrapped.

The biggest alteration proposed is the All-Ireland quarter-finals, which would be replaced by a group stage contested by the four provincial champions and four teams that progress through the qualifiers.

The group stage would be organised on a league basis with two groups of four teams, with each team playing the other three teams once. The more condensed calendar would see this year’s All-Ireland hurling final played on August 21, with the football semi-finals played over two days the following weekend and the decider on September 18.

Extra-time would be played in the event of a draw in all provincial and All-Ireland championship games. Only when teams are level after extra-time should a replay take place.

“It would provide a valuable enhancement of the championship by way of eight additional competitive matches contested by the country’s eight best teams,” read a GAA statement.

“The group games would increase interest at the peak of the GAA season and provide a much wider opportunity for the country’s best teams to display their skills and the qualities of Gaelic football in summer playing conditions. The new structure would provide a more exacting pathway to the All-Ireland final: the finalists will have had to compete with three of the best teams in the country at the group stage, followed by a semi-final with a top-four team that came through the same test.

This will have the effect of ensuring that the finalists will have been equally tested and that the two best teams in the country contest the All-Ireland final.”

 The statement continued: “The new structure would guarantee eight additional major games at venues within the provinces, which is particularly important in the context of the Association’s investment in stadiums other than Croke Park.In addition, the playing of decisive matches of the championship in provincial venues would counter the Dublin-centred bias of the current structure. It would also be likely to bring top teams to provincial venues that they would never otherwise visit in the championship.”The traditionally less strong counties would be favoured by their being granted home-venue advantage in rounds one, two and three of the qualifiers. This would represent a significant benefit and encouragement to these counties and would provide them with attractive home fixtures.”

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