Hurling gets big overhaul
Go ahead for round robin
The decisions taken by the special G.A.A. Congress at Croke Park on Saturday will see a new round-robin format for the provincial hurling championships.
The months of February/March will be for league, April will almost be exclusively for club games, May to July will be for inter-county championship games, with August featuring the All-Ireland finals, and club games in the counties that won't be in the Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire deciders.
September onwards will be club only and the G.A.A. insists that changes made to the structure of the Senior hurling championship will be good for club players.
The total of hurling matches will jump from 22 games to 29. This is to match the new-look All-Ireland Senior football round robin of eight teams at the quarter-final stage.
Both Allianz Leagues will be played off within a tighter timespan next year, allowing April free for counties to get their club competions moving.
The 2018 All-Ireland hurling final will be played on Sunday, August 19, in a radical change from the norm, with the football seven days later, though this could change on a once-off basis should the Pope decide to visit Ireland.
This will represent a significant change on the Irish sporting landscape given that the finals always took place on the first and third Sunday in September.
Those opposed to the change felt that having no big inter-county games to showcase in September would be a retrograde step.
Over the next three seasons, there will be a round-robin series of games in the Munster and Leinster championships.
The ten competing counties, five in each province, are guaranteed a total of four games, two of which will be at home.
The counties are Galway, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin, Offaly (in Leinster), and Waterford, Tipperary, Clare, Limerick and Cork (in Munster).
Delegates also overwhelmingly backed a motion sponsored by Laois, Offaly and Meath to allow two teams from Tier 2 to compete in the Liam MacCarthy Cup as well.
There will be five tiers in the new-look championship - the MacCarthy, Ring, Mackey and Meagher Cups, together with a yet to be named Tier 2 competition, in which Antrim, Carlow, Kerry, Laois, Meath and Westmeath will compete.
All competitions will be run on a round-robin format and there will be promotion and relegation between them.
Furthermore, All-Ireland champions, Galway, will have a home game in the championship.
Following the completion of the round-robin series in Munster and Leinster, the top two teams will feature in their respective provincial finals, with the winners advancing directly to the All-Ireland semi-finals, and the beaten finalists guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals, as is currently the case.
The third-placed teams in each province will remain in the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
They will be drawn against the two finalists in the Tier 2 competition, with the winners advancing to the last six in the All-Ireland series.
The eventual winners of the Tier 2 competition will be promoted to the Leinster championship in 2019, with the bottom team in the Leinster round-robin next year being relegated.
However, in the event of Kerry, the only Munster team in Tier 2, winning the competition, they will meet the bottom team in the Munster round-robin competition, with the winners advancing to the Munster championship proper in 2018.
Under the new structure for the Under-21 series, Galway and some Ulster teams will compete in the Leinster championship.
Wexford opposed the move while an Offaly proposal that Galway compete in the Munster Under-21 championship, while the Ulster teams play in Leinster, was defeated.
There will still be All-Ireland semi-finals in the competition, with the beaten provincial finalists advancing through to that stage.
The new format for the All-Ireland Minor hurling championship will see Ulster counties compete in the Leinster championship.
At All-Ireland level there will be a new round-robin competition to determine the two counties to join the Munster and Leinster winners in the All-Ireland semi-finals. Galway, together with the beaten provincial finalists, will play this round-robin competition.
Also it was agreed that after the conclusion of the National Leagues, challenge games may only be played on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, except within the period specified in Rule 6.22 (a), while there will also be restrictions on inter-county training camps.
In football, kick-outs must travel outside the 20-metre line before being played by another member of the defending team.
Also there will be additional extra-time in all the All-Ireland football qualifiers, knockout games in the National League, and provincial club championship games if the teams are still level after one period of extra-time.
Under the new rule, two additional periods of extra-time of five minutes each shall be played.
If the teams are still level the result will then be determined by a free-taking competition.