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Radical changes proposed to league structure

NEXT year could see some radical changes to the All-County Senior league following a meeting of Tyrone’s Competition Control Committee (CCC) and the clubs on Tuesday night.

Three overarching proposals across senior, reserve and underage club football have gone back to the clubs for debate ahead of a follow-up meeting next Tuesday which will rubberstamp any agreed changes.

The issues blighting club football at present have been well-documented, and the proposed changes intended to tackle them are understood to be the brainchild of Tyrone chairman Mickey Kerr and vice-chair Martin Sludden.

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It’s understood that Tyrone fixtures chiefs fear that county players across Ireland will soon be restricted from playing club football during the championship months, and with that in mind have swiftly moved to propose some radical changes to the current senior league format.

Club football will potentiall change to four divisions of 12 teams in the 2021 season (Division 1A, Division 1B, Division 2 and Division 3).
The teams which finish in the top ten this year will play in Division 1A while the bottom six will play in Division 1B.

The final two slots in Division 1A will likely be filled by the Intermediate league and championship winners, while the remaining top teams in Division 2 will play in Division 1B.

Teams will play 22 matches – 11 matches home and away – under the new changes. There would also be 11 starred matches, which would mean that the CCC would have the luxury of scheduling at least 18 games from the start of the season.

It would also mean that club football can run smoothly during the summer months no matter what changes are made by Croke Park. The 11 matches with county players will be worth four points for a win, while the 11 remaining ‘starred’ fixtures will have two points on offer.

The Senior, Intermediate and Junior championships will be largely unaffected by the new league format, but intriguingly a new Junior ‘B’ Championship is in the pipeline.

Teams from the bottom half of the Junior Championship have fared terribly in championship matches against top-half teams in recent years, so the teams which lose their first round matches would pass into a Junior ‘B’ competition to give them a better chance of success.

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The reserve leagues are also set to undergo a radical overhaul from this season onwards. If the clubs are happy, their reserve teams will effectively be ‘decoupled’ from their senior counterparts. This would mean that reserve teams can now be relegated, while the leagues are also set to be split on a regional east/west basis.

Concession of reserve games in the twilight of the season is a major area of concern at the moment – in the last three rounds of reserve league football last year, 55 games were conceded out of 72 – and it’s been proposed that reserve matches will start at end of March and will run weekly until the end of June, with the championship starting immediately afterwards.

One of the more contentious proposals is that reserve matches will be played on a Monday evening as well, so it remains to be seen if that particular idea will come to pass.

Underage football has also come under the microscope. Under new proposals, U14 and minor football will start in late February, with U16 football starting shortly afterwards. Teams will be split into groups of six, and they will play on alternative weeks on a home and away basis, theoretically ensuring lots of football for younger players.

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