League format is topic of a special meeting

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A SPECIAL meeting has been arranged this month to debate the prospect of changing the format in the Armagh All County Leagues.

At the County Convention held in December the Armagh County Board tabled a motion which called for change within the league structures with the suggestion being to realign the club leagues into possibly thre or even five sections which could be played off on a one way basis over a shorter than normal period of time.

The motion also highlighted the possibility of a Championship realignment which would essentially mean that clubs would be allocaded a section based on their league standing.

For example first division teams would play in the Senior Championship, division two teams would be given Intermediate standings with division three clubs taking part in the junior series.

The proposed three league idea would be run on a one way basis with clubs being guaranteed eight home matches.

While debate is still raging amongst club officials, managers and supporters, many of the newly promoted sides are keen to maintain the status quo which would see the traditional four league format being left in place.

At the end of last season Clann Eireann, Wolfe Tones, St Peter’s and Eire Og were all promoted and whilst the county board’s proposal for change could have long term merit, particularly with the seeding of championship teams, the time for change may have come to soon,

Eire Og assistant manager Mickey Devlin who, along with Oliver Cormican, steered the Pinebank outfit to a league and cup double last season says that his entire club believes that clubs would need more time to settle on the notion of change.

He said: “As far as Eire Og would be concerned to a man we would want to see the four divisions remain in place.

“Our entire squad worked hard to achieve what they did last season. If three divisions, for example, were created we would be placed in the Junior Championship which, if you like, is a form of relegation in itself.”

Eire Og will play their football in division three in the new season and that’s exactly where they want to be stressed Mickey who added: “we had a players’ meeting last weekend and over 40 players turned up. The Intermediate Championship and division three football is the natural progression for the side. Our delegates will certainly be stressing the need to maintain the current format in the all county leagues.”

Whilst the Eire Og management won’t be resting on their laurels, considering that their minor side will be training with their seniors this season, a crack at the Intermediate Championship would be relished by the progressive Pinebank club.

St Peter’s chairman Paul Lavery said that although his club officials had debated the county board motion. And despite the fact the Whites senior side would be affected little by a re-structuring of the leagues he thought that better planning could see change in the future.

He went on: “As far as St Peter’s are concerned we would be in both the Intermediate Championship and second division even if the new proposals were set in place.

“I can understand why change wouldn’t suit some clubs but if more time was given for debate change could come. I think these things need time, possibly up to a year to be piloted and implemented. If you give clubs the understanding that for example in 2013 a new structure will be set in place then managers and committees can set their stall out accordingly.

“I personally dont think that the county board motion will be implemented, at least not for the forthcoming season”

One particular sticking point for the clubs who are struggling to make ends meet surrounds the possible loss of finance surrounding any new venture and although it is understood that clubs may have had revenue from championship games under the new proposals the loss of up to four home games per season has given cause for concern, particularly in relation to local derbies.

A one way league would have created the scenario where local rivals St Peter’s and Clan na Gael would have met at either Davitt Park or St Peter’s Park but not at both venues which would be the case with two way leagues.

The situation would also arise with the clash of Sarsfields and Wolfe Tones who will meet in division one along with another local club Clann Eireann.

Some supporters are suggesting that big derby games should be co-ordinated to attract the highest possible attendance and played over a weekend period in a staggered fashion - for example a St Peter’s against Clan na Gael game avoiding a clash between Wolfe Tones and Sarsfields.

A co-ordinated league fixture list could bring in money for clubs who badly need extra revenue.