It may have been a pretty busy weekend on the pitch and in the stands at Croke Park but so too was it in the committee rooms. A meeting of the GAA’s Ard Chomhairle agreed the agenda for next month’s Special Congress od the Association in Cork.

The meeting will debate the addition of a proposed new Tier 2 Football Championship, as well as deliberate over the introduction of three new playing rules for the game of football.

The Special Congress, will take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on October 19th and potentially adopt the biggest change to the GAA Football Championship since the introductioin of the Qualifiers.

The proposal which will go forward retains the Allianz Leagues and the Provincial Championships as they are currently played.

The All-Ireland Qualifiers will be open to teams from Allianz League Divisions 1 and 2 and any Division 3 or 4 teams who qualify for their Provincial Final.

This will mean only two full rounds of All-Ireland Qualifiers in future as opposed to four – an additional Preliminary Round is provided for however, in years where more than 8 teams are eligible to participate in Round 1.

It is proposed to then introduce a new straight knockout Tier 2 Championship for all Division 3 and 4 teams that do not reach their Provincial Finals.

This could include Cork who were relegated to Division 3 at the end of last season, Down and Derry both of whom will be among their opposition in 2020.

Between them those three counties have won the All Ireland Football Championship no fewer than five times in the past three decades.

Unless they make it to the Ulster and Munster vFinals though they will not have a chance to do so again should the proposals pass.

A range of marketing and promotional supports will be committed to the new competition, as well as the use of Croke Park for semi-finals and finals and a planned increase in TV coverage.

Following a review of the Experimental Rules that were trialed in Gaelic Football during the Allianz League and Provincial Cup competitions, it has been decided to forward three of them for proposed permanent introduction at all levels of the game.

Based on the research carried out by the GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules, led by Professor David Hassan, the following are to be voted on at Special Congress:

• The taking of all kick-outs from the 20 metre line
• the introduction of a 10-minute ‘sin bin’ for players who receive a black card
• The awarding of a ‘mark’ to players who cleanly catch a ball kicked from on or outside the opposition’s 45m line, that travels at least 20m and without touching the ground

Ard Chomhairle also agreed to amend the scheduling of the existing All-Ireland SFC Quarter-Final format for the final year of its trial in 2020.

In Round 1 of the group stage of the Quarter-Final, the four provincial champions will be at home against one of the teams who came through the Qualifiers – as was the case in 2019.
It was also agreed that for 2020, Round 2 will see the winners of the Round 1 matches play each other, while the losers of the Round 1 matches will also face off.

At present there has been a round of games that are scheduled to take place at Croke Park. It is now planned to give the authority to CCCC to fix these games for venues other than Croke Park – if deemed appropriate. This would require the approval of a full GAA Congress and it is intended to bring forward a motion on this to Congress 2020 next February.

If passed, this would come into effect for the 2020 Championship which is the final year of the current three-year trial involving the new Quarter-Final group phase.

It has been a successful Football Championship this year but structural change is needed to maintain a degree of balance between those at the top and those further down the pecking order.

The proposal on the Tier 2 Championship seeks to do just that and we will know in a little over a month whether it will be part of the timetable for 2020.