Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

New format for All-Ireland

Richard Bullick

This year’s All-Ireland Senior Championship will have a new format with the 12 competing teams split into two groups of six rather than the previous four pools of three teams each.

The traditional quarter-final round has been axed, with the top two teams in each group going straight through to the semis, though the restructure means that each team will be guaranteed more matches than before.

There is a disparity between provinces with Ulster having five Senior Championship counties, Munster four, Connacht two and Dublin being the only Leinster representatives following Westmeath’s relegation to the Intermediate tier.

It is believed that the change of format may be partly at Dublin’s behest, though thankfully previous suggestions coming from the capital that the provincial championships should be scrapped have been ignored.

A positive of the changes announced last Thursday is that all teams will have at least five fixtures in the All-Ireland Senior Championship but the new format makes some dead rubbers a probability.

Like the Super Eights in the mens’ game, more matches means the top teams are less vulnerable to being derailed by a one-off upset, so All-Ireland champions Dublin and main challengers Cork look like even better bets than usual to reach the semi-finals.

Cork’s Rebelettes won an astonishing 11 All-Irelands in 12 seasons up until 2016 since when previous regular bridesmaids Dublin have reeled off three titles on the trot.

The LGFA has announced that the provincial champions will be seeded for this season’s All-Ireland draw, with two ending up in either pool, while the basement sides at the end of the group stage are set to face each other in a relegation play-off.

Meanwhile, Orchard ace Caroline O’Hanlon’s hopes of a fourth ladies football All-Star were dashed at last Saturday’s Dublin banquet when the Carrickcruppen player, who had been shortlisted for the 11th time, lost out to two All-Ireland finalists for the midfield berths.

Those spots went to All-Ireland Player of the Year Siobhan McGrath from Dublin and Galway’s Louise Ward, who was also on the shortlist of three for the top individual award.

Dublin picked up seven All Stars after completing a hat-trick of All-Ireland titles, with losing finalists Galway getting four including Ward’s twin Nicola, Cork two and one apiece for Mayo and Meath.

Sinead Reel and her full slate of Armagh LGFA officers were re-elected unopposed at last Tuesday night’s AGM, a clear endorsement of the good work which has been done in local ladies gaelic over the past year.

There are still two vacancies to be filled, however, with Derrynoose clubman Conall McGinnity and Paula Murphy from Grange stepping down as PRO and Children’s Officer respectively.

However Middletown’s Michelle Loughran remains Vice-Chairperson with her clubmate Vincent Mallon as Treasurer, Paddy Og Nugent stays as Secretary while Margaret McCorry continues as Registrar and Barry McGurgan Development Officer.

Over 460 guests crammed into the Carrickdale Hotel last Saturday night for the Armagh LGFA Junior Awards which honoured achievements at age group levels below Minor in 2019.

Awards were presented by double All-Star Aimee Mackin and her fellow Armagh forward Niamh Reel with Anthony Farrell, whose Bureau de Change generously sponsors Orchard county age group teams and domestic competitions, also making presentations.

Crossmaglen starlets received individual awards in the main categories, Caoimhe Dooley sharing Armagh Under 16 Player of the Year with Clann Eireann’s Roisin Mulligan and likewise Eimear McMahon with Clan na Gael’s Caitlin Brady at Under 14 level.

Caitlin Smith of Tir na nOg won Player of the Year for the Orchard’s Under 15 development team with Sinead O’Neills of Shane O’Neills collecting the equivalent for the Under 13s.

Each county team also had an award recognising an individual who made an excellent contribution to their group during the year and these went to Clann Eireann’s Anna McStay, Killeavy sisters Aoife and Laura Kavanagh, and Caoimhe Hourican of Derrynoose respectively.