THE pressure will be on for clubs in the Lower Intermediate Hurling grade in 2021.
All bar the champions, who go up to the IHC, will be relegated to junior as the Cork County Board streamlines hurling competitions to 48 teams from the start of 2022.
As part of that process, two teams will be relegated from the Intermediate A competition to junior A, along with 11 teams from LIHC. That allows room for the junior A winners next year to be promoted.
In football, the cull won't be as severe, as there isn't a fifth tier, but Intermediate A still has to drop from 16 to 12 teams, with five teams relegated. Like hurling, there will then be 48 clubs above the junior ranks.
All junior competitions will be reviewed at the end of 2021 and interestingly, league and championship will be separate, so a club going back to junior could still be involved in a higher tier in the league for 2022.
The 2020 championship hasn't been completed yet of course, with a number of big games due to be played early next year. The stakes couldn't be higher though, for Russell Rovers and Castlemartyr, who collide in an East Cork derby LIHC final.
Seeding will be place in all competitions for 2021, based on where clubs finished this season in the round-robin format. For example, Blackrock, Glen Rovers and Sars are the top three seeds in Premier Senior Hurling, with Nemo Rangers, Castlehaven and St Finbarr's the football equivalent.
The group stages in Cork were a resounding success this year, increasing standards across the board. With the spectre of relegation and just two spots in the knockout stages from each group of four, there was a bite to every match.
The split-season approach between club and inter-county events due to Covid-19 was a key aspect to that of course. At national level, the GAA is now moving towards that system going forward, which would see the All-Ireland series completed by July each year.
"As uncertainty currently prevails with regard to the 2021 GAA calendar, no decision has been made by the CCC at this point with regard to schedule of dates," explained the Cork County Board. "The format included here would require a club season with a minimum of 12 weeks, however a period of 14 weeks or more would be more appropriate. Championship draws will take place when there is more certainty regarding the national calendar.
"The format of divisional/college rounds will be confirmed at a later date. There has been no decision on the number of teams that will qualify for the U21 A football or junior A football and hurling county competitions. This will depend on the window available.
"Plans to organise junior regional leagues in partnership with the divisions, as discussed last year, may be postponed until 2022, due to the prevailing uncertainty around 2021. Further consultation with the divisions to follow."