There is a bias towards maintenance of the status quo among hurling counties on the eve of the vote on the re-structure of the Liam MacCarthy competition. 

When the 'Super 8' proposals for the football championship passed at Congress back in February, it provoked a panicked realisation among many hurling folk that their game could become marginalised in the new football-heavy calendar. 

The introduction of the 'Super 8' in football, combined with the maintenance of the status quo in hurling, would leave us with 19 senior inter-county football matches in July and August of 2018 compared with just five hurling games. 

Anthony Daly was especially angry at what he regarded as the football-centric nature of the discussion in February, remarking that the GAA might as well rename itself the GFA (that standing for Gaelic Football Association rather than Good Friday Agreement). 

Clare's Tony Kelly requested the introduction of a similar 'Super 8' structure in hurling, while Henry Shefflin admitted that he foresaw there being a much greater interest in the football championship in 2018 due to the increased number of games. 

Tony Kelly wants a round-robin system for All-Ireland quarter-finals

The GAA and the HDC (Hurling Development Committee) promptly responded to this clamour, with the latter tabling proposals to restructure the hurling championship and the former scheduling a special Congress in autumn to introduce them in time for the 2018 season. 

The Liam Sheedy chaired HDC proposed that the five-team Munster and Leinster championships be run-off on a round-robin basis with the top two progressing to the provincial final. 

The winners advance directly to the semi-final while the losers take on the third place team from the other provincial group in the quarter-final (this has been tweaked slightly since summer). 

The bottom placed team in the Leinster championship will be relegated in favour of the winner of Tier 2 - consisting next year of Westmeath, Laois, Kerry, Carlow and Antrim.

Unless, that is, Kerry happen to win the Tier 2 championship in which case they will face the bottom placed team in Munster in a play-off.   

However, the fears for hurling's profile seem to have receded dramatically over the summer months with many pundits now citing the 2017 All-Ireland championship as evidence that no tinkering is necessary. 

'Hurling is fine as it is', was the familiar message to emerge from the Sunday Game review of the year on the night of the All-Ireland final. 

Pre-empting how counties will cast their vote before delegates arrive at Congress is a treacherous business. 

Many county boards are content to allow their delegates decide on the day itself and opinions can change once county officers land in the room. 

But as things stand, here is how the Tier 1 hurling counties - as envisaged under the new format for 2018 - feel about the proposed restructure. 

Counties against

Tipperary are against the proposal and have tabled their own amendment to the motion, arguing for the ten-team provincial structure to remain but for it to be played on a knock-out rather than a round robin basis. 

County secretary Tim Floyd told RTÉ Sport that concerns over the club calendar account for Tipp's opposition. 

"There's not enough room to play club hurling. Closing down the club season for three months isn't the answer," he says flatly. 

What about the preponderance of football games relative to hurling games from next season? 

"I wouldn't worry about that. I don't believe that's a cause to panic at this stage. Maybe in a couple of years time but not now. 

"After the hurling championship we had this year, I don't think we've anything to be worrying about."

Wexford have not officially decided yet but according to county chairman Derek Kent, the consensus view at a recent county board meeting was that the status quo should remain. 

"We had a county board meeting and the consensus of the county board meeting was in favour of the status quo, unless Congress can come up with a reasonable alternative," he told RTÉ Sport. 

"The line from Wexford is they would like the status quo to remain. The county board is not convinced that it (this new format) will free up enough Sundays for club games."

As for fears about the lopsided division of football and hurling games in July and August, Kent is unconcerned.

"It's nothing to do with football. Hurling is hurling. Football didn't come into the equation," he says.

Of all the elite hurling counties, Waterford are perhaps the most implacably opposed to the new format.

County chairman Paddy Joe Ryan labelled the proposal "crazy" in an interview with The42.ie and he disclosed that the new format had been greeted with "unanimous opposition" at a recent county board meeting.

Ryan said that "all clubs and delegates were dismayed that there was any attempt to change the championship... especially after the most successful championship ever."

He argued the new format would worsen the club fixture situation and appealed to other counties to reject the proposal. 

Cork are in an odd position as they have tabled an alternative motion (Motion 5) to Congress proposing that hurling simply adopt the 'Super 8' system being introduced in the football championship.

However, the county itself is plainly in favour of the status quo, as outgoing secretary Frank Murphy acknowledged to delegates at a meeting this week.

Frank Murphy

This bias towards the status quo notwithstanding, the Irish Examiner reported that Murphy admitted to delegates that Cork would be bound to vote for their own 'Super 8' motion should it prove the most popular in the room at Congress. 

Dublin have introduced their own motion (motion 5) in opposition to the Central Council motion, recommending a minimal alteration to the status quo. 

They propose that the provincial championships should remain as they are but that the quarter-finals be increased to four games rather than two.

Essentially, under the Dublin proposal, the provincial champions and the defeated provincial finalists both enter the All-Ireland series at the exact same stage - the quarter-finals - where they would face one of four sides who progressed through the qualifiers. 

Offaly, Laois and Meath (the latter two sides being designated as Tier 2) have tabled an alternative motion, proposing that the two finalists of the Tier 2 competition progress to meet the third placed sides in Munster and Leinster in a 'preliminary quarter-final' with the winners advancing to meet the defeated provincial finalists in the quarter-finals.

Admittedly, this proposal involves a relatively mild level of tinkering with Motion 2 itself.

Counties in favour

Galway are still officially in the process of debating the proposal but chairman Michael Larkin is confident enough to signal his county's full support of the reforms. 

Crucially, the new format guarantees Galway two home games in the championship, which is two more than they've managed to wrestle out of their Leinster championship counterparts in nine seasons in the province. 

In February, Galway were persuaded to abandon their motion requesting home matches on Leinster on the understanding that Central Council would cater to this desire in due course. 

Galway's last home game in the championship was a qualifier against Clare in Pearse Stadium in 2011. 

"We support Motion 2 because we believe it's very good for the promotion of hurling," Larkin told RTÉ Sport. 

"And it has the added advantage from a Galway point of view of giving us home games which we would welcome greatly."

Larkin argues that a greater number of games on TV would aid the promotion of hurling. 

"We'd like to get more competitive hurling games. It does appear to be a bit lopsided at the moment with 19 football games (in July and August).

"But having said that, there's more counties playing competitive high standard football. And we're trying to promote hurling. 

"And the only ways we can promote hurling is through the counties themselves and through the promotion of the game on TV."

The Limerick Leader reported that Limerick have given their delegates free rein to decide which way to vote on the day. 

But there appears to be broad support for the motion with secretary Mike O'Riordan saying: "In principal, I would be in favour of the motion put forward by the Ard Comhairle. I believe it is right that the club championship should be completed within the year and I also believe the National League finals should be played on St. Patrick's Day."

County chairman Oliver Mann informed the meeting that he had spoken to the Limerick players and management and they were "very much in favour of the Croke Park motion", citing the added games as a chance to develop Limerick's talented younger crop of players. 

Counties on the fence

Kilkenny, for their part, want the vote on the motion postponed for a year to assess how the 'Super 8' works in football. 

"We're looking for the whole thing to be postponed and have a look at the Super 8 in football. That's our stance on it," county chairman Ned Quinn told RTÉ Sport.

"I don't think we'll get our way but that's what we'd like to see. We'd like it delayed for a year. 

"(We should) watch the football, see if it works out or if it doesn't work it and see what effect it has on club fixtures." 

Ned Quinn

However, Quinn stressed that the delegates to Congress hadn't been mandated to vote one way or the other. 

Ideally, Kilkenny want the status quo to remain for 2018 but this doesn't mean they're rejecting the HDC proposals outright. 

"We haven't been forced to take a position. If we're forced into voting, we haven't taken any (stance)", says Quinn. 

Clare intend to decide on the day itself and have no "firm position taken" on the issue, according to county secretary Pat Fitzgerald. 

"We'll decide in the morning," Fitzgerald told RTÉ Sport. "We have had meetings and we've discussed it. We've no firm position taken on it."

"As a board, we decided we would make the final decision on the day. We'll talk to other counties and see what they're doing and get their view on it.

"We wait to be convinced. Our club championship will be a very important factor in whatever way we vote. And we're waiting to see whether it will be an improvement or a disprovement on what's there at present.

As with most hurling county board officers, the ratio of football matches to hurling matches in late summer 2018 is not a factor in his thinking. 

"We manage our business and that doesn't come into it. I know that's a factor in some people's thinking," says Fitzgerald.

While the majority of top tier hurling counties seem at best hesitant about the changes to the championship structure, with a few quite adamantly opposed, it is still unknown as to which way the vote will go. 

The Central Council motion has to achieve 60% support to come into force but the voter base is drawn from more than just the hurling counties canvassed here. 

As Tipperary's Tim Floyd remarks: "It'll be tight enough. We wouldn't have a clue about (the intentions of) Ulster counties, who wouldn't have a lot of interest in it. We wouldn't know what way they would go."