Galway United enter a defining four-week stint to save their SSE Airtricity premier league status with a trip to the Carlisle Grounds for a critical clash against Bray Wanderers on Saturday (3pm). Sha

Last weekend's special GAA congress rounded off an unforgettable year for Galway hurling.

Having last month won the All-Ireland senior final for the first time in 29 years, and annexed the minor title too, the county had the next few items on its wish list ticked off by congress delegates on Saturday.

Galway hurling will be in a better place for 2018 after the special congress passed three motions on the structure of the inter-county hurling championships, all of which were endorsed by Galway. Motion two regarding the senior championship was passed with 62 per cent in favour.

That vote means the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship will be restructured on a three-year trial basis and will see Galway enjoy home advantage in at least two championship games for the first time.

The Liam MacCarthy Cup will be reduced to 10 teams.

Five-team Munster and Leinster championships will be played on a round-robin basis. Galway, participating in Leinster, are guaranteed a minimum of two home games each year.

The top two teams in each provincial group will face-off in the provincial final, while the third-placed teams will play the finalists from a tier two championship, featuring teams like Antrim, Carlow, Kerry, Laois, Meath and Westmeath to see who advances to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

The beaten provincial finalists will contest quarter-finals against the winners of the play-off between third place counties and the tier two finalists.

The quarter-final winners play the provincial champions in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Fourth-placed counties in either provincial group will play no further part in the championship and the bottom placed county in Leinster will be relegated and replaced the following year by the tier two winners.

Those changes were made despite opposition from most of the main hurling counties, a number of which had tabled motions of their own. Cork chair Ger Lane said the new format would create difficulties, especially for dual counties such as Cork and Dublin.

Lane also queried the need to change the provincial championships, saying it was ironic the change comes after one of the best Munster championships in a long time.

Galway into the Leinster U21 championship

Motion nine, which dealt with the U21 Championship, was also passed with 72 per cent in favour.

Galway will now participate in the Leinster U21 Championship together with any suitable Ulster teams (as agreed by Ulster and Leinster councils ).

The winners of the Leinster Championship will then play the runners up in Munster and vice versa in the All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-finals. Another big plus for Galway from last weekend dealt with the inter-county minor championship, motion 12, and it was overwhelmingly passed with 90 per cent.

This means any suitable Ulster team will participate in Leinster. The winners of Leinster and Munster qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals, while the runners-up in both provinces and Galway compete in a round-robin All-Ireland series.

That change guarantees Galway at least two games prior to advancing to an All-Ireland semi-final were they one of the top two teams to advance to the semi-finals from that round-robin group of three.

This experiment will run for three years, with a review after two.

GAA director general Pádraic Duffy said the association had an open mind on how the changes would work, but he did not envisage reverting to the old system.

The All-Ireland final will be brought forward and is scheduled to be played on August 19 rather than its traditional spot on the first Sunday in September.

One potential benefit of that move is it will allow more space for club championship and should allow counties to set better fixture programmes for their clubs. If the inter-county championship is going to start in May and finish in mid-August, there should be a good more free weekends for club action.


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