IF the recommendations of the Fixtures Review Committee are implemented, the senior, intermediate and junior A hurling championships faces a major shake-up.
The committee’s proposals will see the championship played in two stages – a league section and then knock-out. The Palmer Cup would replace the current ACHL.
The recommendations for the championships, which are similar to the format used in Kilkenny, must first go before the CCC and will then be put to club delegates at the first County Board meeting of 2012.
Stage I (SHL) would be a league format with two divisions of five teams, resulting in four games for each team. The top team in each group would meet in the Senior Hurling League final. All inter-county players should be available for these fixtures.
For Stage II (SHC) the top two teams will qualify for the SHC quarter-final while the remaining eight teams in a first round with league placings deciding the pairings, i.e. second v fifth etc.
The four winners will qualify for the quarter-finals while the four losers will meet in two qualifiers, after an open draw, to decide the remaining two quarter-finalists.
The winners of the qualifiers will meet the league finalists in the quarter-finals while the two losers will meet in a relegation playoff.
The committee have also recommended that the Palmer Cup should change from knock-out to league format, in effect replacing the old ACHL competition.
Each team would have nine games with a final at the end. It would start at the beginning of March and clubs would expect to play without their inter-county players for the majority of these games.
It is proposed to run the intermediate and junior A championships along the same lines.
It is suggested the SHC could commence on either 29 April or 6 May which would allow one important club fixture before the commencement of the Leinster senior championship on 19 May.
The position of the SFC is different to the SHC in that the former has 16 teams which suits the current format. The most common complaint received by the review committee was that the SFC has become very predictable over the past number of years through no great fault of five-in-a-row champions, Portlaosie. The report points out that between the end of the county senior footballers’ involvement and the start of the club SFC there was a gap of four weeks. Submissions were received to make this gap smaller but this is not as simple as it looks. Much depends on how well the county’s senior footballers get on in the championship and on whether or not they get an extended run in the championship. The committee say: “Changing the current fixture schedule would return us to the days when we had a fixture list but we could not be sure if it would be adhered to. Nobody can say that about the current fixture schedule, especially in relation to championships matches.” If there is a mood to change, then the number of senior teams will need to be reviewed and perhaps reduced to 12 over a period of two or three years run on a similar format as to that proposed for the hurling.
This is a grade that seems to be squeezed out or in, depending on which way you look at the fixtures schedule. Anecdotal evidence from other counties would suggest Laois is not the only county experiencing this difficulty.
- Laois Nationalist