A GAA season like no other, brought to a premature halt, but from a Cork viewpoint still a very successful one. And there’s the promise of more to come when the green light is given by Croke Park to resume club activities.
Cork County Board PRO Joe Blake reflected on the past number of months on the activity on Leeside, positively, despite the frustration at the hold-up.
“Obviously, it was a disappointment for everyone when the decision was taken to halt the games at club level, to put things on hold but, hopefully, when that is reviewed we will be able to conclude our club championships.
“Things had been going very well for us here in Cork and we got three fantastic hurling championships concluded the weekend before last.
“We had four football finals pencilled in for last weekend and again, I have no doubt, they would have provided excellent fare too.
“The senior final between Nemo Rangers and Castlehaven promises much and you had the potential for one of the best finals for years.”
Blake believed that the new format was an outstanding success in both codes and the decision to adopt that format was the correct one.
“I think the revamped championship in both hurling and football proved that the clubs made the right choice.
“The CCC of the County Board were happy to recommend it to the Executive. We had to tweak it a small bit when the Covid crisis became acute and that meant just two, not three teams qualified for the knockout stages.
“I believe that worked out very well, there was a more competitive edge to every game, there was hardly any margin for error and every score that was registered counted.
“You had teams striving to reach the semi-final, the others trying to reach the quarter-final and then on the other side teams battling to avoid relegation.
“Every club got to play three games, that hadn’t happened before and that will help to develop players.
“The only downside was that so few people got into the grounds to see the games but the live streaming of so many games compensated quite a bit for that.
“It was great for the older generation and that certainly worked out terrifically. Two of our hurling games went to a national audience, the Glen against the ‘Barrs on RTÉ and the hurling final between the Rockies and the Glen on TG4.
“I think that hurling final really showed up Cork club hurling in a very positive light.”
The Cork County Board PRO believes that from a hurling perspective, it was one of the best championships for years.
“I believe that it was and the same goes for the football across the grades under our auspices.
“People were talking about the games afterwards, when that happens you know they have been good.
“The Premier SHC, the Senior A and the Premier IHC finals were as good as you’d get anywhere.
“Look at the football championship, we had a dramatic penalty shootout between the Haven and the Barrs, before that you had one in hurling too between Sarsfields and Éire Óg.
“Look, it might not be the best way to decide a game but for the winners it’s great but conversely it’s so disappointing for the losers.
“But that’s the way it was and if the All-Ireland final ends in a draw that will be the way too, everyone knows beforehand. From my own viewpoint, my favourite game was the Blackrock-UCC hurling semi-final.”
In the very near future, the time will come for clubs to hold their AGMs, counties their conventions and on that score, Blake told The Echo that a document has been issued from headquarters on how they might be held.
“There are guidelines set out in the document in relation to those annual gatherings and clubs will have to adhere to those.
“It has been a hugely difficult time for the Association as a whole but I believe everybody has cooperated superbly.
“Clubs have had to have stringent regulations in place to allow the hosting of games, that meant extra stewarding and none were found wanting.”
Looking forward to the inter-county scene, Blake is hopeful that all the Cork teams can have a successful season.
“Absolutely, our minor hurlers and U20s are first into the ring shortly and the countdown is on for the hurlers against Waterford and Kerry-Cork in football.
“The teams have prepared well, staying within the guidelines set down by the GAA and there is much to look forward to even if it’s going to be strange playing championship hurling and football in the Winter.
“But it will be the same for everybody. It’s a knockout championship, there will be no backdoor in football, whoever loses between Cork and Kerry next month will be finished for the season.
“So that will make things even more interesting.”
The board were very grateful for the sponsorship provided by the Co-Op Stores in hurling and the Bon Secours in football.
“Yes indeed, there are challenging times for all the units of the Association so here in Cork we are very grateful for the sponsorship provided by the Co-Op Stores and the Bon Secours.
“They were very good and we look forward to the future with them. It’s been a challenging year but positive too in a lot of ways.
“Everybody has worked hard to get the games that we have played concluded and with 13 finals across the grades still to be played, we are hopeful that can be achieved when we get the green light to recommence.”