Thurles Sarsfields' Pádraic Maher pictured accepting the Dan Breen Cup from chairman Michael Bourke.
Following a County Board meeting on Tuesday, November 29th the format for the 2017 county senior hurling championship remains unchanged, but a St Patrick’s motion to revamp the all-county leagues was passed.
A range of motions related to the structure of the 2017 senior hurling championship were summarily ruled out of order at a Committee Meeting of Coiste Chontae Thiobráid Árann hosted by the Sarsfields Centre in Thurles on Tuesday, November 29th.
The November County Board meeting was convened with an express focus on club fixtures and competition structures - at the October County Board meeting clubs were invited to submit motions with regard to the running of the 2017 club championships.
County Board vice-chairman John Devane made the decision to rule a series of motions out of order on the basis that the structure agreed in 2015 for the running of the 2016-17 senior hurling championship was for a two-year period. In 2015 club delegates to the County Board voted unanimously in support of this motion.
The decision of John Devane essentially meant that motions proposed by clubs like Toomevara, Silvermines, Portroe and Kilruane MacDonagh’s were ruled out of order.
The motions proposed by Silvermines, Portroe and Kilruane concentrated on adding an extra date to the divisional schedule which could guarantee clubs in North Tipperary at least two games in their divisional championship while the Toomevara motion examined the entire championship structure and provided Roinn II clubs with an opportunity to compete for the Dan Breen Cup in 2017.
The format for the 2017 championship only permits the 16 clubs in Roinn I and the divisional champions to compete for the Dan Breen Cup. The structure of the county senior hurling championship does not permit teams in Roinn II to compete for the Dan Breen Cup unless they win their divisional championship.
As matters stand each division is allotted four dates to play their respective divisional senior championship - as a result the North division has no choice, but to play their championship on a straight knock-out basis; a situation clubs in North Tipperary have railed against. Indeed, at a recent North Board meeting the clubs in the division voted unanimously in support of motions to request an amendment to the 2017 championship structure which would allow the division to guarantee clubs at least two games.
“The format is set in place for 2017,” John Devane, the chairman of the Competitions Control Committee (CCC), said after he ruled the motions out of order.
“We are very disappointed to learn that the motion is not going to get to the floor,” Toomevara delegate Jackie Meagher said.
“We are the committee in charge and we should be able to look at the fixtures on a yearly basis,” Jackie Meagher added.
“I appreciate your comment, but I expected more of a debate last year to be honest about it - you were all there when the motion was voted through. It was a two-year motion and it is a two-year format,” John Devane said in response.
“A two-year motion was voted through unanimously last year. I am delighted that there has been discussion and views put forward with regard to this. I would argue that we need to put more thought into our system because we have flaws in our system,” John Devane added.
A sense of frustration with the situation was palpable among club delegates with some suggesting that they were not aware of the significance of the 2015 motion.
“Our hurlers had 43 training sessions last year for one game,” Silvermines delegate Maurice Leamy exclaimed.
“One player never missed a session even though he was travelling from Dundalk. Páraic Duffy has just told us that there should be less training and more games and I would like you to take this on board. Why can’t we have two (guaranteed) games in North Tipperary?” Maurice Leamy asked.
“I understand totally the frustration of clubs; I can understand all of that, but this motion was voted through by the clubs and we have a hugely difficult job to do here,” John Devane explained.
“We have three choices. We can continue as we are and hope for the best like we have been doing. We can go tinkering with the system or we can go for radical change. I would go for radical change and suggest that we run the divisional championships separately to the county championship. If we keep going the way we are going we won’t have county teams and we won’t have club teams. It really is that serious,” the Boherlahan-Dualla man said.
John Devane and his colleagues on the CCC, especially secretary Tom Maher (Moyne-Templetuohy), find themselves in an impossible situation as they try to piece together and manage an unworkable schedule. As pointed out by Tom Maher at the October meeting of the County Board “our championships are not fit for purpose; the dates are not there to support the structure”.
“It is not humanly possible to fit them (the fixtures) in,” County Board chairman Michael Bourke said.
“Tom Maher is blue in the face from trying to explain it and no one is listening. The space is not there in the schedule and it can’t be invented. I think we are going to have to separate the divisions from the county championship,” the Upperchurch-Drombane man added.
It is extraordinary to note that since 1960 the format of the senior hurling championship has been altered 15 times. For instance the 2001 season saw a significant change when 28 teams were permitted to enter the race for the Dan Breen Cup via a group phase structure, but that system was altered dramatically a year later when the divisional semi-finalists constituted the last 16. There were further tweaks in 2003, 2004 and 2005 before the Ó Riain Cup was introduced in 2008 and, significantly, relegation was abolished. More changes to the structure of the championship followed soon after before the two-tier format (Roinn I & Roinn II) was voted through (68-8) in time for the 2014 season. A further alteration to the championship was then voted through unanimously which essentially created a new grade ahead of the 2017 series of games - now teams competing in Roinn II will not be afforded the opportunity to compete for the Dan Breen Cup unless they win their divisional championship.
Following a discussion on the issue County Board vice-chairman John Devane ruled the motions pertaining to the 2017 senior hurling championship out of order.
“We have discussed this and we could have stopped this discussion from even starting. The motions are out of order. We have a format in place for the coming year and that’s where it ends. The motion with regard to the 2017 championship was passed last year and any motions related to that are not in order,” John Devane said.
It was at this point that several club delegates walked out of the meeting.
County Board vice-chairman John Devane pictured right.
COUNTY HURLING AND FOOTBALL LEAGUES
The St Patrick’s and Ballina clubs proposed detailed motions pertaining to the structure of all-county leagues for both codes. Heavy fines were proposed for clubs who elected to give walkovers under the St Patrick’s proposal while the motion also encouraged the County Board to incentivise clubs to complete their league fixtures programme by refunding full entry fees as a reward for doing so. Both motions were highly impressive and suggested that league entry be made compulsory for all clubs.
Ultimately, because the Ballina and St Patrick’s motions were similar in nature, delegate Michael Sheehy agreed that the Ballina club would support the St Patrick’s motion.
In response to the proposed move away from the existing challenge cup and county league formats CCC secretary Tom Maher said: “It won’t work - the clubs won’t play it. If every club does not hook on it does not have a chance”.
Although leagues are warmly embraced in counties all over the country clubs in Tipperary appear to distinctly favour playing championship matches. John Devane, chairman of the CCC, has long argued that the structure of the Tipperary club schedule needs to change; that the gearing, the ratio of league games to championship games, needs to be altered.
“We are trying to put square pegs in round holes. The CCC gets criticised for a lot of things, but we are only implementing what is decided here. If we were to start again in terms of looking at our competition structures we would not do it this way at all,” John Devane said.
CCC secretary Tom Maher suggested that unless each club is contacted and an effort made to ascertain the number of teams involved in each code and in each grade it would be impossible to put together a format for an all-county league. Tom Maher suggested that following this piece of work “we can then decide on a structure for the competition from there - without doing that we are working in a vacuum”.
Mr Maher’s suggested was well received by delegates and it was decided to allow the CCC to carry out this work, conceive an all-county league structure (with potential divisions consisting of six teams) and then bring that back to the clubs.
County Board chairman Michael Bourke, however, was eager for delegates to vote on the compulsory aspect to the all-county league proposal.
“I would propose that we make it compulsory for the first team from each club in both codes to participate in the league in both hurling and football,” County Board chairman Michael Bourke argued.
“If you don’t pass the compulsory factor you are giving the clubs an opt-out,” Michael Bourke added.
In response Lorrha-Dorrha delegate Shane Brophy made an impassioned plea to his fellow delegates: “It has to be compulsory for one team per club to compete in the league - I can’t understand any club who does not want their team to compete in the league. Why would you not want to play in a league? I can’t understand that”.
The compulsory aspect to the proposed all-county league format was passed following a vote while the format of the league is at the discretion of the CCC and while be published in due course.
“Every club will have at least one team in a league in both hurling and football. And, the reward will be that clubs will be refunded their (competition) entry fee when they complete all of their matches in the league. Every club is committed to entering a team in the hurling and football leagues now. It’s that simple,” Michael Bourke added.
County Board chairman Michael Bourke pictured with Tipperary senior hurling manager Michael Ryan.
INTERMEDIATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Both the Golden-Kilfeacle and Clonmel Commercials clubs tabled motions related to the running of the county intermediate football championship. Both clubs proposed that the intermediate football championship be run an all-county basis similar to the intermediate hurling championship. The Golden-Kilfeacle club proposed that the divisional champions would still earn a place in the knock-out stage of the championship while Clonmel Commercials argued that the county and divisional championships be separated.
“We have put a lot of thought and effort into this and we are trying to separate the county championship from the divisional championship. We are a big club in Clonmel and we are haemorrhaging players because they are not getting games in May, June and July. Football can only get better and stronger in this county by going down this route. The divisional championships should be able to stand on their own two feet. I strongly believe that this is the way to improve football in County Tipperary,” Clonmel Commercials delegate Derek Williams explained.
In response Tom Maher, the secretary of the CCC, said: “I would worry about adding more games and dates to a system that really has not got dates to give. I don’t know where the dates are going to be got. If you want to vote for it, fine, but give it a bit of thought before you vote in support of it”.
After a discussion both motions were put to a vote while West Tipperary Board chairman John O’Shea proposed that the status quo remain in situ. John O’Shea was seconded by Aodán Wrenn (Cashel King Cormacs) in both instances and delegates voted to preserve the status quo in successive votes.
UNDER-21 FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Clonmel Commercials proposed that the under-21 football championship at all grades be run on an all-county basis.
“There seems to be huge fear factor that we are trying to do away with the divisions, but we have no doubt that the divisions are strong enough to stand on their own. If we can make this change we believe that we will have better championships because of it,” Clonmel Commercials delegate Derek Williams explained.
West Tipperary Board chairman John O’Shea proposed that the status quo remain in situ and the Clonmel Commercials motion lost the subsequent vote.
JUNIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Clonmel Commercials club proposed that a similar structure be applied to the county junior football championship. West Tipperary Board chairman John O’Shea proposed that the status quo remain in situ. The Commercials motion was defeated.
MINOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
The Clonmel Commercials club proposed that the minor football championship be run on an all-county basis. The motion was warmly-received by County Board vice-chairman John Devane: “Of all the grades this is the one competition where players are getting completely neglected. I believe that there is huge merit in a proper county championship at minor level”.
Mid Tipperary Board chairman Joe Kennedy made a very sensible suggestion in response - considering the fact that 2017 will see a minor and an under-17 inter-county championship take place to allow for the fact that the minor inter-county grade will alter to under-17 in 2018 Kennedy suggested that it might be best to shelve the Clonmel Commercials motion for a year.
“This is not the year to bring this one in,” Joe Kennedy said.
“We can shelve the motion and take a close look at developing an all-county minor hurling and football championship next year,” John Devane agreed.
Clonmel Commercials delegate Derek Williams said that his club were happy to postpone the motion for a year, but Mr Williams also requested that the Football Board be charged with taking a close look at the matter.
The Golden-Kilfeacle club proposed that where relegation applies to any competition it shall be run on a round robin basis in order to decide the team(s) to be relegated. This motion was passed.