The Gaelic Players Association's (GPA) canvassing of their members on the proposed changes to the All-Ireland hurling championship has revealed a division in opinion between elite and non-elite hurling counties.
The proposed format for the hurling championship from 2018 onwards would transform the Leinster and Munster championships into round robin competitions and would also lead to the creation of a third qualifying group, also played off on a round robin basis, from which the winners would earn promotion to their relevant provincial championship for the following season.
In a statement released by the GPA on Saturday afternoon, 70% of Liam MacCarthy squads are revealed to be supportive of the proposal while support for the new format among squads competing for the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard, and Lory Meaghar competitions collectively hovered at around 40%.
The GPA said that players overwhelmingly welcomed discussion on changes to the hurling championships. Here is the breakdown in the level of support for the proposals.
"70% of Liam MacCarthy squads would be supportive of the new Championship Proposals."
"The proposals do not have a majority support from squads participating in the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher competitions with only 40% supportive of the structure."
- "50% of squads are not in favour of the current qualifier group structure as only one team can progress from this group."
The primary concerns expressed by those wary of the proposal is that the championship will become "too condensed" and it will not do enough for the promotion of hurling in non-Liam MacCarthy Cup counties.
They wished to see a longer championship season and would like their matches to played before games in the Leinster and All-Ireland hurling championships to enhance their profile.
The New Structure
Under the proposed structure, both the Leinster and Munster hurling championships would be five-team competitions played off on a round robin basis, with each side guaranteed four games with two home games apiece.
The top two teams in the round robin phase will contest the provincial final with the winner proceeding to the All-Ireland semi-final and the loser being placed in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
On a two-year rolling cycle, the third place team would either progress to the All-Ireland quarter-final or would be condemned to face the winner of the five-team qualifier group for a place in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Thus, the teams placed in the qualifying group are technically able to the win the All-Ireland but not their provincial title.
The proposal greatly resembles the format devised in 2012 by the Hurling Development Committee under the chairmanship of All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy.
The spur for the re-modelling of the hurling championship was the radical imbalance between the number of top level football and hurling games following the passage of the 'Super 8' proposal through Congress in March.