Streamlined GAA championships ratified by clubs

Westmeath GAA club delegates have voted in favour of proposals by the county’s Competitions Control Committee (CCC) to run streamlined football and hurling championships for 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.

Delegates met via teleconference yesterday and, as expected, gave their backing to the proposals, which will see championships kick off in Westmeath just before the August bank holiday weekend, with a view to concluding them by late September or early October.

Patrick Doherty, Westmeath GAA’s operations manager, explained the proposals which, he stated, were designed to give players as much championship football and hurling as possible in what is “a novel year” for sporting administrators.

In hurling, the structures established will guarantee a minimum of three games per club, and four for those who reach the knockouts. In football meanwhile, there will be a minimum of three games per club, with ten out of 12 clubs in each championship playing at least four games, and finalists playing five.

The formats, explained last week, will see the two tiers of the senior hurling championship split into two groups of three, followed by knockouts and a relegation playoff. The intermediate hurling championship, meanwhile, will consist of two groups of three, leading to semi-finals.

On the football side, each championship from senior to junior 1 will be divided into four groups of three teams. The top two from each group would progress to the quarter-finals, with the losers of each quarter-final qualifying for a playoff to decide who will be in Group 1 for 2021. Meanwhile, the bottom team in each of the original groups would go into a relegation semi-final.

Finally, the junior 2 football championship will comprise two groups of three teams, with the top two in each group progressing to semi-finals.

Mr Doherty told delegates that Loughnavalley will not be fielding in 2020, with their place in the junior 1 football championship to be taken by Mullingar Shamrocks’ second team.

In the case of all championships, it was proposed that Rule 6.21 would apply in the context of placings, while knockout games would finish on the day.

The amended hurling championships were accepted with little in the way of opposition, with Joe Potter (Lough Lene Gaels) proposing, and Ciaran Reilly (Brownstown) seconding.

With regard to football, Jim Rock (Coralstown/Kinnegad) tabled an alternative format tailored to teams with dual players. He was supported by JP Reynolds (Bunbrosna). However, Des Maguire (Mullingar Shamrocks), praising the work of the CCC, proposed the formats as they stood, and was supported by Aidan Walsh (St Joseph’s). The matter was put to a vote, and the CCC’s proposals were adopted 41-11.

Tom Hunt (Mullingar Shamrocks) expressed his “personal preference” for finals being replayed in the event of a draw. Billy Foley, county board chairman, said that he understood the monetary and sporting value of replays, but stressed that “logistically”, in the current climate, they may not be possible. Mr Hunt accepted this, but the chairman agreed to discuss it with the CCC.

Tubberclair’s Willie McCormack asked if the potential “competitiveness” of Mullingar Shamrocks’ second team was considered when admitting them to the junior 1 football championship. Mr Foley said that it had been considered, reminding the Tubberclair delegate that senior clubs are required to name 17 exclusively senior players before a ball is kicked.

Rosemount delegates Jimmy Whelan and Vinny Cox queried the fate of the junior ‘B’ and U19 football championships respectively.

Mr Foley said that Cusack Park is committed to having a “competitive and meaningful” U19 championship and further details will be confirmed within the next ten days. Regarding the junior ‘B’, the chairman said that some clubs had indicated that they may be unable to field for it, and that its fate would not be known until after the junior 1 and 2 championships are finalised.

The 2020 championships will be officially launched in TEG Cusack Park this Sunday evening at 6pm, with draws aired live on Facebook.

Meanwhile, all proposed underage formats are to be discussed at an open-air minor board meeting in TEG Cusack Park next week.

Alan Leech, Westmeath minor board chairman, said that the streamlined underage championships represent the best effort by administrators to “facilitate all clubs”.

“Clubs need to be cognisant of the reduced window available to us, however,” he said. “We’re not going to in a position to keep every club happy.”

Kevin Jordan (Southern Gaels) of the minor CCC proposed amalgamations at minor level for 2020, which were duly seconded by Dermot Broughan (Cullion). Mr Jordan said that Longford teams normally allowed into Westmeath underage hurling leagues will not be admitted to the county’s underage hurling championships in 2020.

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