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Grenagh's John Russell celebrates his goal against Na Piarsaigh, a game they subsequently lost. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Grenagh's John Russell celebrates his goal against Na Piarsaigh, a game they subsequently lost. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
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Grenagh claimed an unwanted first as defeat consigned them to relegation

SUNDAY saw Grenagh claim an unwanted first.

Since the changes to the county championship structures in at the end of 2015, no team had been relegated from a senior or intermediate grade. 

In addition, when those changes did come in nearly two years ago, the six teams due to have been relegated were granted a reprieve, so Grenagh’s loss to mid-Cork rivals Naomh Abán in Macroom meant that they became the first team in nearly three years to have a demotion imposed upon them.

There may be others this autumn who will endure a second successive year without a victory, but it’s hardly stretching it to say that we are closer to over-population than under-population in the higher ranks and that the dilution of quality plays a part in Cork’s failure to make more of an impact in the club championships.

The knock-on is that the divisional junior championships have lost some of their value too, though that is being masked slightly by the fact that those competitions are being won by clubs who may not have had days in the sun before and are benefiting from the novelty of it now.

It should surely be a rule set in stone though that if a team moves up a grade, they are taking the place of someone else. With just one team relegated since 2014 across the six higher county championships and 12 promoted into them, that’s simply not happening. It’s a situation similar to the way the intermediate hurling and football championships bloated in the early 2000s, resulting in the creation of the premier grades.

Another possible problem is that you have relegation play-offs where one team has to win to preserve status, but the other side can lose and stay up, so it’s not a perfectly level playing field. On Sunday, the team with more to play for wound up losing, but that may not always be the case.

Is there a silver bullet which can sort things now, short of sending a large tranche of clubs back to junior against their will? Is there necessarily anything wrong with doing that?

It seems that playing at intermediate carries a badge of pride that junior doesn’t, even though the current intermediate grade is now the same as what junior A was 15 years ago, i.e. the third tier.

Anyway, it’s a discussion for another day – though we always say that and it never gets a proper airing. One thing we noticed at two of the relegation ties played at the weekend was that programmes were noticeable by their absence.

If people are being charged €8 to be allowed in to see a game, surely they should at least be given an A4 sheet folded in half with the teams listed by the numbers they are wearing? 

Us reporters are used to traipsing up and down the pitch before the game to disrupt the teams’ warm-ups and ask the mentors to rattle off the starting 15 (though usually at least one line on the team will be given in left-to-right order, rather than the usual left-to-right) but the spectators deserve to know who’s who – those attending these matches are generally the diehards so they’ll know their own team but they should also be able to know who the opposition are. 

We would imagine that the threat of county board fines for failing to produce a programme would be enough of an incentive for host clubs to ensure that this happens.

And finally – poor old Mayo.

Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
 

It’s now played nine finals since 1989 and lost nine.

Only Kerry (played 12, won seven) have appeared in more deciders in that time, with Dublin next on eight, winning five. Cork, incidentally, have been in seven, winning three.

Obviously, there’s no such thing as a curse, but it must be so difficult to keep picking yourself up and coming back at it each year only to experience disappointment each time.

Mayo’s misfortune is to meet a Dublin team regarded as the best of a generation and lose to them by a point on three occasions in a final and draw with them as well.

Dublin have to be applauded of course, their composure late on was absolutely textbook and Dean Rock’s conversion of the winning free was nerveless. 

But Mayo, God help us…