Munster GAA chairman Liam Lenihan believes the four provinces of eight football championship proposal will lead to greater frequency of the Munster SFC title being won by counties other than Cork and Kerry.
One of the two proposals put forward by the fixture calendar review task force involves rebalancing the existing provincial structure, with one county from Ulster and three from Leinster moving across to Connacht and Munster respectively to form four conferences of eight.
The two Leinster teams joining Munster each summer would be determined by a series of preliminary round games involving the six lowest-ranked Leinster counties as per finishing positions in that year’s League. Lenihan does not see the Munster football championship being diluted by the presence of two Leinster counties.
Under the proposal, each eight-team province would be divided into two groups of four. Counties would be guaranteed three round-robin games, with the top team in either group advancing to the provincial decider.
The Munster chairman believes a minimum of three provincial championship games will help to improve the traditionally less successful counties and increase the likelihood of Tipperary’s 2020 Munster winning feat being replicated on a more frequent basis.
“That’s it exactly,” said Lenihan.
“Clare won Munster in 1992, but Tipperary’s win last year was the first time they had won it since 1935. In the meantime, how many counties outside of Cork and Kerry won a Munster SFC? We have to move forward.
“Four provincial championships of eight, and within that two groups of four, is a logical enough thing to do. You are giving every county a fair chance. You are giving an increased number of championship games to counties. And the Tailteann Cup is there, as well, for those Division 3 and 4 teams who don’t reach a provincial final.”
Lenihan points to the restructuring of the Munster MFC in 2019 as an example of how counties can benefit from increased provincial championship outings.
“We were able to give a chance to four counties — Clare, Tipperary, Limerick, and Waterford. They each got three meaningful games (before one team progressed to play Cork and Kerry), whereas in last year’s Munster MFC, when it had to be straight knockout, Cork and Kerry were streets ahead of the rest, and Clare a good third.”
Reform of the All-Ireland SFC, which includes a proposal to move the League to summertime and have it form the basis for the All-Ireland series, is to be voted on at a Special Congress later in the year.
Elsewhere, neither the LGFA nor Camogie Association has ruled out playing their 2021 National Leagues on a regional basis, the same as the GAA is intending to do.
The LGFA has already tweaked their League, with counties in the various divisions to play three — rather than the usual seven — round-robin games.
The LGFA said consideration has been given to geographical splits and that the association will continue to monitor Government and health authority updates before any decision of further change to competition structures is taken.
The Camogie Association, meanwhile, said there has been no firm talk of regionalising their League, but such a move is not being completely ruled out as organising competitions on a regional basis was on the table last year when Camogie’s 2020 master fixture plan had to be redrawn.
The association confirmed to the Irish Examiner earlier this week that a virtual All-Star awards ceremony will take place next month to honour the game’s top performers from the truncated 2020 season. The LGFA is expected to make an announcement on the All-Star front in the coming days