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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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GAA wants to play All-Ireland finals in August and replace football quarter-finals with group stage

Director general Paraic Duffy is aiming to condense the championship seasons.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy.
GAA director general Paraic Duffy.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

THE GAA HAS issued revised proposals for a Gaelic football championship restructure in what appears to be an attempt to appease critics of the original ideas revealed in August.

However, the latest document released by GAA director general Paraic Duffy is persisting with a round-robin stage for the last eight of the football championship, to replace the knock-out quarter-finals.

The process for finding the last eight would remain the same under the proposal, with the four provincial winners guaranteed their spots along with the victors from clashes between the provincial runners-up and the final four sides in the qualifiers.

But from there the teams would be divided into two groups with each side to play each other once — including one home game, one away fixture and one tie at Croke Park.

The top two from each group would then advance to the semi-finals, with those fixtures to be played across both days of the first weekend in August.

The hurling All-Ireland final would be played on the second Sunday in August with the football equivalent coming two weeks later, meaning inter-county players would be available to their clubs earlier in the year.

Some have claimed that a move to a round-robin for the last eight of the football championship would make life even more difficult for weaker counties to bridge the gap with the game’s elite.

The fear is that the likes of Tipperary, one of the stories of the GAA season this year, would find it considerably more difficult to make the All-Ireland semi-finals under such a structure.

But the GAA seems adamant that the best teams in the country should make up the final four in the race for Sam Maguire.

“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 proposal argues.

There is some good news for the so-called weaker counties in the proposal however, with Division 3 and 4 teams guaranteed home advantage in round one, two or three of the qualifiers if they are pitted against a side from one of the top two divisions.

The group stage of the football championship would add eight matches to the season but it is proposed that the football league semi-finals would be abolished, as well as reducing the waiting times between fixtures, to aid congestion issues.

There are also plans to introduce extra-time at the end of all drawn games to reduce the likelihood of replays and the amount of extra fixtures being added to the calendar.

The proposal insists it is just a “medium-term” reform of the football championship as the GAA believes options for immediate and radical change are quite limited.

Key focus points of the proposal include:

  • Retaining the provincial championships in their current format
  • Group stage to replace quarter-finals in football championship
  • Playing All-Ireland football semi-finals over one weekend, but hurling semis would be played on consecutive weekends
  • Playing hurling and football All-Ireland finals in August
  • Keeping all teams in provincial championships and qualifiers, crucially not implementing a ‘B’ championship
  • A low-price ticket policy for group stage matches
  • A more condensed season
  • Reducing the intervals between inter-county matches
  • Play extra-time at the end of all drawn games
  • Abolishing league semi-finals in football

Well, what do you make of all that? Would it be a good move for the GAA? Let us know in the comments section below.

You can see the proposal in full here.

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Alan Waldron

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