Club officials want divisional link to remain

Thursday, 26 October 2017

THE one certainty to come out of last Tuesday night's well attended county Fixture Information Forum held at The Anner Hotel is that many clubs want the link between Divisional and County championships to remain. Players don't really mind which but they do want certainty about fixture dates while Board administrators want to please everyone but are not getting it easy.
But when all is said and done no real decisions can be made until the November meeting of the County Board decides on the format of the championships for 2018 and clubs will have a major say with the motions they decide to propose in writing. Tipperary CCC Secretary, Tom Maher spoke about those motions suggesting the motions needed to be itemised and made for purpose.
In addition there are more worries because Tipp is fast becoming a county which has a strong dual player base, more pronounced now because of Tipp's improvement in the All-Ireland football race. That is a good problem and between all the discussion there is another body of people who fear that club status and importance is eroding and that the day a player playing for club and county will become a thing of the past.
The background to all of Tipperary's fixture problems began last February when Congress decided on changing the football quarter finals into a new Super 8 competition when instead of the traditional knockout basis, the last eight in the all-Ireland series would be divided into two groups of four on a round robin basis and the top two would go on to feature in the All-Ireland semi finals. Move on to the last weekend of September when a Special Congress was arranged to change the format of the All-Ireland Hurling championship by introducing a round robin based championship in Munster and Leinster and the top three from each Province plus two from what are called Tier Two teams - Meath, Antrim, Carlow, Laois, Westmeath and Kerry- would take centre stage in the All-Ireland series.
This would take up three weekends of the month of May as well as the whole of June, July and August as the All-Ireland senior hurling and Football finals have been brought forward to August instead of the traditional month of September.
Lovely hurling! Once again the clubs are going to suffer as domestic championships won't get going until September.
Domestic Scene
The dates for Allianz Hurling and football leagues have been changed to be completed by the end of March, which in theory leaves the whole month of April and the first weekend of May free for club championship action. That five week period is part of fifteen weekends available for clubs to complete their championships but when a county wants to organise a county championship which requires six weekends (six rounds) to complete plus a divisional championship that requires four weekend (four rounds) to complete and with dual players also involved it could take up to twenty weekends to get from start to finish.
Put simply fifteen weekends are not enough. Don't forget the Munster club championships are to commence in the first weekend of November.
And as a result clubs in Tipp are far from happy and the Tipperary County Board decided to organise a Fixture Information Forum last Tuesday. The Forum lasted two and a half hours and was worth every penny as far as good debate goes.
Tim Floyd, Secretary Tipperary County Board opened proceedings and gave a breakdown of what was in store informing the delegates that the Forum would be divided into two parts. The first part involved four presentations made by Paudie O'Neill, Chairman of the Hurling Development Committe (HDC) followed by John Devane and Tom Maher Chairman and Secretary (respectively) of The Tipperary CCC. They were joined by Peter Twiss, Secretary Kerry County Board who would share the Kerry model of organising its football and hurling championships before former Tipperary player and current Borris-Ileigh defender Paddy Stapleton was last to speak.
Once the four presentations were complete, a workshop commenced and was chaired by Joe McGrath, CEO of Tipperary County Council.
Tim Floyd began by saying the Board had invited clubs to the forum to develop ideas for the year ahead before adding that the November Meeting of the County Board on November 26 will be the meeting to decide the championship systems for 2018.
Mr Paudie O'Neill said the GAA, which has been accused as very conservative, has made a lot of changes over the last few years with mention of the changes made in the two Congresses last February and September as well as mentioning the decision to change the age groups for Minor and Under 21 to 17 and 20 respectively.
He went on to say "The 13 day rule has been reduced to ten and the ratio of training to games has been revised to give more game time. My son told me during the year that he was sick of all the training and he wanted more games instead. In addition the time taken up by the knockout stages of the Allianz Leagues have been reduced with the semi finals gone in football while the quarter finals are gone in hurling. The Allianz Leagues are to commence a week earlier," said Paudie.
John Devane, Vice Chairman of Tipperary County Board and chairman of the Tipperary CCC - which is the body that organises the club championship and League competitions - stressed the need for clubs to be careful when tendering motions for the November 26 meeting outlining the shortage of time, allow for dual players and the number of round required to complete the championships. Later on, during the Forum, he asked for consideration to county players - especially hurling - who might be asked to play five rounds of Allianz Hurling League, three rounds of club fare in April and five rounds of Munster championship hurling. That would amount to twelve games before reaching the month of July. That's too much for any player.
Tom Maher, Secretary of Tipperary CCC agreed with John Devane stressing the shortage of weekends due to changes made by Congress.
The Kerry Way
Kerry Board Secretary Peter Twiss was invited by the Tipp Board to present how Kerry organise their club hurling and football championships. Using a projector he highlighted the plan.
“There are two Senior Club Championships in Kerry," he said. The county senior football championship involves sixteen teams, eight senior clubs and eight districts or divisions e.g Mid Kerry or South Kerry. It takes six rounds to complete the county championship which is similar to the Christy Ring format where the first round is eight v eight. Round 2A is the eight winners require four games. Round 2B has eight first round losers involved four v four. Teams who win twice advance to quarter finals while the other four come from the winners of Round 3 which sees round 2A losers versus round 2 B winners. The club championship in football has eight teams and requires five rounds."
“In hurling there are eight teams involved in the county senior hurling championship which also requires five rounds while the club championship needs three rounds."
He went on to say. "Most championships are knockout with extra time up to and including semi finals. No Championship competition has more than sixteen teams involved. There is no connection between league and championship except where relegation from Intermediate/Junior Premier Junior. All players play in two championship competitions per year while some players play a third which is the divisional championships and are usually played towards the end of the year. Over 3,000 might attend a North Kerry final on Saint Stephens's day. Up to 8,000 attend the County final proper."
“Senior club championship apart from being a competition in its own right serves as two other purposes namely relegation and provincial club championship. League competitions have strict policy regarding postponements. The league has five divisions Division 1 to Division 5. There are 12 teams per division. Promotion and relegation has 3 up and 3 down. There are 73 clubs in Kerry,"
Former Tipperary hurling star Paddy Stapleton was the last speaker of the four to make a presentation. He suggested that above all he wanted certainty in club fixtures but it's going to take a major leap of faith for the clubs to meet halfway with the County CCC.
“I had no idea of the problems in county versus club when I joined the County team throughout the early years 2003, 2004 and '05 but I see things different now. The county versus club crisis is approaching boiling point," he said.
After a break, Joe McGrath CEO Tipperary County Council presided over the Club Workshop. He presented six statements allowing the delegates to view each statement before coming back with answers.
The six statements were:
1. Is the certainty of having no club championship games in May, June and July better than shoe horning club championship games in to whenever possible dates become available.
2. Should our County Senior or Intermediate championship commence in August every year?
3. In the time frame available to us to us with the new county structures what do you believe the maximum number of rounds in the county senior hurling championship and the county senior football championship?
Should we include the divisional championships if they are to continue to feed in?
4. Are the new Leagues as played in 2017 the most suitable format to fill the void during the non championship periods from 2018 onwards?
5. What do the clubs suggest they play during the month of April now left vacant for club only activity from 2018
6. When would the clubs propose to play the divisional Under 21 hurling and Under 21 football championships.
Link Or No Link?
The decision made by last year's championship meeting in November 2016 was to see top sixteen featuring in the 2018 County championship and that the Seamus O'Riain cup would be the new Premier Intermediate championship thus relegating the divisional championship to a stand alone competition. There were many club delegates still in favour of retaining the link i.e. The divisional championship feeding into the county championship.
“We are in agreement of the link between the North and county championship," said Joe Gallagher, Kiladangan senior hurler and a winning captain in 2013. "We want as much championship games as possible. I admit it is not easy to administrate," he admitted.
But it was Holycross delegate Donal Ryan who took the meeting by storm requesting a show of hands to indicate the feeling of the attendance. John Treacy, Loughmore Castleiney agreed and said it would be a foregone conclusion.
Michael Tierney, Borris-Ileig,h argued the importance of the North championship which Borris-Ileigh won in this season. "It meant an awful lot to the club. Three of the four teams in the North semi finals had to win their game in order to keep in the county race. It added to the cut and thrust of the game and at least 2,000 patrons turned up for each semi final," said Tierney
But there were other delegates less convinced about retaining the link between divisional and county.
“I would like to see the divisional competitions linked with the county championship but I doubt if we have the time to do it," said Pat Moroney, Aherlow, in relation to the fifteen week period for club championship.
“Playing the entire divisional championship in the month of April would be a sure way of killing the Divisional championship," said P.J. Maher in answer to a suggestion made earlier which suggested that the divisional championship be played in April.
There were other suggestions that one round of senior hurling and football be played month of April in order to help grade the players.
With the months of June, July and August accounted for as far as county teams are involved, clubs are expected to use the time playing County Leagues. This year's league was a success said John Devane and Jackie Meagher suggested that clubs are going to have to buy into leagues. Team managers are going to have to take them more serious instead of travelling many miles for challenge games," said the Toomevara delegate.
The November 26 meeting is going to be the makings of a great debate.


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