Paudie Palmer: Big questions to be answered as club championship begins

Paudie Palmer: Big questions to be answered as club championship begins
St Finbarr's icon Michael Shields being tackled by Ballincollig forward Patrick Kelly in a Cork County SFC game at Páirc Uí Rinn. The clubs meet again on Friday night. Picture: Des Barry

WE are nearly there in terms of the commencement of county and championships which undoubtedly will bring joy to many of our readers. 

Can we begin with a set of questions that may arise before the beginning of October and not in any particular order... 

How many teams will have to withdraw due to Covid issues? How many games will go to extra time? 

How many will be settled by penalties? Will the number of spectators remain at 80? What will happen if the daily cases hit 100? Surreal doesn’t come close.

With so many games scheduled for this weekend, we will have to narrow our forecasting skills to just a few. The big one in the premier senior football on Sunday afternoon is the West Cork meeting of Castlehaven and Carbery Rangers in Clonakilty. Both of them played Kenmare in recent challenge game and the opinion from the picturesque Kerry town is to put the euro on the Haven. 

Friday night Nemo should defeat Valley Rovers while St Finbarr’s will receive a serious check as to where they stand when they play Ballincollig. In other clashes, at this level, we will give the tentative votes to Douglas, Newcestown and Clonakilty. 

Castlehaven's Damien Cahalane rises above Carbery Rangers' James Fitzpatrick. Picture: Anne Marie Cronin Photography
Castlehaven's Damien Cahalane rises above Carbery Rangers' James Fitzpatrick. Picture: Anne Marie Cronin Photography

Quite honestly, I am looking forward to reading a plethora of match reports on Monday and maybe then, I will be convinced that the new normality is reality.

You may remember last week when I made mention of the fact that in light of a few clubs having to pull down the shutters, the experts who were calling for the GAA to reopen their fields early last month pressed the mute button.

Now, that they have got a little time to bring more of their expertise to our attention, they are back with all sorts of views and explanations. One leading columnist felt that he underestimated young people’s inability to behave. 

Really, did he think that these misbehaving youths weren’t going to socialise! 

Another one of those who opined that the county couldn’t survive without the GAA felt that the recent shutdowns by a number of Cork clubs was totally over the top. Maybe he is right.

Do you remember a month or so go, there was this notion peddled that if the GAA didn’t cut the padlocks the mental state of the nation would go south faster than Dara Calleary was fitted for new pair of wellingtons some night last week? Now there is a viewpoint developing that players lining out for their clubs could experience feelings of self-doubt in case they contract the evil evil virus or worse still pass it on to an elderly or vulnerable relative. 

It’s at times like this, that those who decide on the narrative menu are having a field day.

I know that you are waiting for the column’s valued opinion on who the victors of their big post-Covid clashes this weekend. But firstly a few words on post-primary schools GAA. I am aware that there wasn’t a huge southern interest in a reasonably high profile game that was played in Leinster last week and which was streamed live by the Leinster Post-Primary School’s Committee. 

After a top-class encounter, St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge won their first  Senior A provincial football title defeating Naas CBS 1-11 to 0-13. Incidentally, the team coach was Luke Dempsey who retires from his teaching position at the school this summer. Nice send-off.

The Rochfortbridge team celebrate after the Br Bosco Leinster Colleges A Senior Football final in Tullamore.
The Rochfortbridge team celebrate after the Br Bosco Leinster Colleges A Senior Football final in Tullamore.

The real reason that school GAA entered this week’s realm has to do with the rather large amount of media attention that centred around the non-playing of this year’s All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools Junior football Final (U16.5) between St Brendan’s College Killarney and St Patrick’s Classical School Navan. When Covid came calling, the GAA at a high level decided that this final, as well as other All-Ireland PPS competitions, would not be played. 

As this was the only competition that had reached the final stage, it would appear that both schools were really anxious that the game should be played and put forward proposals that would enable this to happen while adhering to HSE regulations. 

The GAA weren’t for changing which resulted in one St Brendan’s mentor to declare that he was considering his voluntary contribution to both school and club. Killarney traffic didn’t come to a halt!

Yes, I do feel for all involved and I would have no problem with this final being played but after that, it is my rather humble opinion that this competition together with its hurling counterpart should be disbanded with. A little perspective. 

Up to the amalgamation of the vocational schools and colleges competitions to form post-primary competitions a decade or so ago, there was no All-Ireland colleges competition at this level but interestingly there was one at vocational level. 

In the amalgamations discussion, some from the vocational side of the house insisted the retention of a U16.5 All Ireland completion in the deluded opinion that schools that participated in their sector would be able participate. 

The two completions both hurling and football have become the preserve of the top elite schools with no corresponding All-Ireland competition for the B,C and D schools.

You may remember the GAA had a motion at Congress which if passed would have meant there would be no C and D Senior All-Ireland Post-Primary Schools competitions, these schools could just participate in provincial ones. The advice from this corner, get rid it the two elitist junior competitions and maintain the senior ones for the four grades of schools A, B, C and D. 

Hopefully, the muinteoir at St Brendan’s will reconsider his options and continue his involvement with the GAA.

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