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Leagues set for radical revamp

Sport
Leagues set for radical revamp

EDWIN MCGREAL


FOLLOWING weeks of speculation, the Mayo GAA Leagues are set to be restructured tonight (Wednesday), meaning that clubs’ league status will be entirely dependent on championship results. Under the proposals, promotion and relegation would only happen as a result of championship performance, which is sure to spark debate across the county, while €6,000 will be on offer to the winners of the Senior League.
Under the proposals next year’s Senior League would be made up of teams that have senior championship status after the 2006 season with intermediate and junior following suit. It is also proposed that the club season would run from mid-March to mid-October in 2007.
“The fact that Division 1 teams will be all the senior teams means that we will be able to alternate championship and league rounds,” Mayo GAA Board Secretary Sean Feeney told The Mayo News, who said it was “a matter for the clubs” whether or not the proposals get the green light. “For instance if we have Senior championship one weekend, we can play Division 2 games that weekend and so on. The downside is that there is no relegation from the league itself. There is no real way to avoid some meaningless games but we had some of them this year too. We’d hope to play as many games as possible before the championship.”
Feeney said that some remaining league games “probably won’t be played” if the changes come in, though the title deciders in the top two divisions (Shrule/Glencorrib v Crossmolina and Ballaghaderreen v Tourmakeady) will go ahead.
“We didn’t expect the league to run so late this year,” said Feeney. “The U21 success took a couple of Sundays, we got to the All-Ireland final, we had a drawn game (Laois) and everything fell behind.”
The proposals have proven especially controversial in Belmullet, who would find themselves playing in the Intermediate League despite retaining their Division 1 status.
”I’m fierce disappointed,” Belmullet dual star Paddy Barrett told The Mayo News. “The least we could have got was a year’s notice in order to try to work around it. If we had known at the start of this year that these proposals were going to come in we would have put more emphasis on the championship.
”With the new structures I don’t know what value at all the league has. We could conceivably finish bottom of Division 2, win the Intermediate Championship and be promoted to Division 1. I don’t see how the league can be run when there will be no value attached to it at all.”
Barrett is a Garda working in Monaghan town. Some weekends he works 10pm-6am on Saturday night, drives 150 miles to Belmullet, grabs two hours sleep, plays a match and then heads back north-east for another night shift on Sunday. The proposed change has left him pondering his future.
“To be going to that effort and find out that it is absolutely no use is very frustrating,” he said. “We had worked hard to get to Division 1 and we wanted to stay there, we put in a big effort but it was a complete waste of time. For next year I’ll have to have a serious think about things. It will be very hard to get back to Senior League again, there’s time left in us all but it’s by no means certain it will happen next year. Most of our lads are based away from home. It’s hard to get excited about coming back for Division 2.”
As a Senior championship outfit, Breaffy stand to retain their Senior League status despite residing in the bottom two of Division 1. Outgoing Breaffy manager John Fahey agrees that the proposals suit his club but believes that “they lack competition – what you will have essentially is 15 glorified challenge games”. He added that matches over the last few weeks “have really cost time for everyone involved and for it to be pointless in the end makes no sense”.

MEANWHILE, the long-awaited Breaffy House Resort Mayo Senior Football Championship relegation play-off between Louisburgh and Kiltimagh takes place in Islandeady on Sunday at 12pm.

League Proposals

• Championship status decides league grade
• Senior championship teams play in the Senior League
• Intermediate championship teams play in the Intermediate League
• Junior championship teams play in Junior League which will be  divided into two sections i.e regional basis
• There will be no relegation from the league
• League to commence on weekend of March 17/18/19
• County players may not be available for some league games
• Senior winners to get €6,000 for player holiday fund
• Intermediate winners to get €4,000 for player holiday fund
• Junior winners to get €2,000 for player holiday fund
• Entry fee €100 per team
• Format for one year only

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