By Malachy Clerkin
DUBLIN — The GAA’s Hurling Development Committee’s proposals for a new to the hurling championship were presented to the Games Administration Committee last week. The major problem facing the committee is in finding a way of guaranteeing each county a minimum of two matches in the championship while at the same time accommodating Galway and their unique situation.
Under the terms of the new proposal, Galway will go straight into an eight-team qualifying/losers group. They will be joined there by the defeated Ulster finalists, and the three teams from both Munster and Leinster who have lost at either the first-round or semifinal stage in their provincial competition. The pairings will be decided by open draw.
Should Galway lose their first open-draw game, they will then be drawn against one of the three winners (the team that beats Galway, should the scenario arise, will be excluded from this draw) from the first round of the losers group. This is the manner in which the HDC have got around the thorny issue of giving Galway at least two games in the championship.
The four teams who emerge from this initial qualifiers group will then join with the defeated provincial finalists from Munster and Leinster, to form a six-team group. There will then be a further open draw, with the three winners, along with the Ulster champions, contesting two All-Ireland quarterfinals. The two winners will then go forward to play the Munster and Leinster champions in the All-Ireland semifinals.
Nicky Brennan, former Kilkenny manager and chairman of the HDC, is satisfied that their proposals will meet Galway’s requirements.
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"I am quite happy that what we have come up with will satisfy Galway," he said. "Of course, we will have to wait and see what their response will be, but we bashed our heads together on this and looked at all the pros and cons.
"I think it’s a good system and I’m confident it will get the support it needs, although the one organization that you can never feel over-confident about is the GAA."