Cork's top club rugby teams are in hiatus with no end in sight until December

Cork's top club rugby teams are in hiatus with no end in sight until December

Cork Con's John Forde takes down Old Crescent's Eugene McGovern in the Energia Community Series Conference at Temple Hill. Picture: Gavin Browne

UNDER normal circumstances the meeting of Highfield and Cork Constitution at Woodleigh Park tomorrow would whet the appetite on the Jazz weekend.

But, these are very unusual times and last week’s IRFU decree to suspend all games in the new energia Community Series means no action until December, at the earliest.

The new competition is effectively a provincial league split into two conferences and is a gap-filler to the energia All-Ireland League, which, this season, takes on a different hue of one round of fixtures, nine games in all, beginning in January, 2021.

Munster, Leinster and Ulster have two conferences with Connacht having one section of five teams.

The gradings were based on provincial and national league standings from last season, which was declared null and void in March following the Coronavirus outbreak.

Games began at the end of September with all seven matches in Munster going ahead in glorious weather, but the warning signs first started to appear in Ulster and Leinster.

Two of the scheduled six matches in Leinster and another up north were called off because of Covid with the teams collecting two points each for the official 0-0 result.

The unease heightened the following week, when the games between Cashel and Highfield and Garryowen and Con were called off.

Worryingly, four games went by the wayside in Ulster and two more didn’t take place in Leinster. At this stage, Connacht remained unaffected by Covid.

More games fell by the wayside on week three, two again in Munster, Highfield for the second time, on this occasion, Shannon, and Sunday’s Well, who were due to play Clonmel.

Another couple in Leinster were impacted and while Ulster only called off one match, Connacht had to do the same for the first time.

The suspension would have been greeted with groans up and down the country, but particularly in Young Munster, who had made a scorching start to the season.

They headed up Munster Conference 1 with three wins from as many games and collecting two try bonus points to sit on 14 points.

Con were in second, two points adrift, also after picking up bonus points after wins over Old Crescent and Cashel, when flanker Ross O’Neill was among the try scorers.

UCC, who, like Munsters, played all three games, ending with a win, draw and defeat, are on eight points, two more than ’Field.

They made a great second-half recovery to draw their opening game 22-22 at home to Garryowen, but any hope of moving up the table was dented by their two cancellations.

Nenagh Ormond and Bruff head up Conference 2, with Dolphin mid-table and the Well and Midleton struggling at the other end.

The Community Series is also linked to the Bateman Cup with the three Conference 1 winners in Munster, Leinster and Ulster and the Connacht winners progressing to the semi-finals.

The draw resulted in the Munster winners taking on Connacht and Leinster facing Ulster.

There’s also the introduction of two other Bateman competitions, the Plate and Shield.

This will be played for by the teams who finish second in Conference 1 with the same draw of Munster v Connacht and Leinster v Ulster.

The Shield competition is for Conference 2 clubs and will feature the winners in Munster, Leinster and Ulster as well as the third-placed team in Connacht.

But, whether the season returns to what’s planned must be in doubt at this stage.

Some clubs stopped training at the Union’s decision last week while others wrapped it on Tuesday until December 1.

Training was restricted to pods of 10s, but the time they’re allowed return after the second lockdown, players will have lost six weeks’ fitness and conditioning.

Gym closures will affect their ability to keep apace physically and there’s also the psychological affects to be factored in, as well.

When teams eventually are permitted back training they’ll need a few weeks before considering playing again which could kick the Bateman series of games to touch.

The suggestion is to finish the Community Series which would be an ideal run-in to the start of the All-Ireland League.

But, like everything else, rugby is gripped with uncertainty and nobody can predict the immediate future.

More in this section

Sponsored Content