The John Horgan column: Imokilly hurlers face their toughest test yet

The John Horgan column: Imokilly hurlers face their toughest test yet
Imokilly’s Bill Cooper with Seamus O’Farrell of Midleton battling it out in the county final two seasons ago. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

ONE could go back over twenty years or longer when the participation of divisions in the Cork County championship was a hot topic of debate at the county convention.

There was a move in that time to terminate that participation altogether but it was strongly resisted and nothing came of it.

Some of the divisions are no longer involved in the championship with the city unit Seandún out of the hurling championship.

Carrigdhoun are no longer putting in a football team and apart from Imokilly in hurling and Duhallow in football, the impact of the divisions is minimal.

Donncha O'Connor of Duhallow in action against Colm Scully and Jamie Burns, St Finbarr's, in 2018. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donncha O'Connor of Duhallow in action against Colm Scully and Jamie Burns, St Finbarr's, in 2018. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

In both instances, a very big effort is put in and Imokilly have ruled the roost in the SHC for the past three years.

We don’t know what format the championships in Cork will be this season, a season that is going to be condensed considerably because of the health crisis of the past few months.

Last week new Imokilly team boss Ciaran Cronin suggested that some divisions might not participate at all this year because they would find it extremely difficult to be able to field a team.

Club bosses, he believed, might not want to release players because it will be full-on for the clubs themselves.

The schedule will be packed and for dual clubs that will mean a minimum of six games, three for a non-dual club if the round-robin format goes ahead.

Cronin suggested that it could be a struggle for club players to find time to play with the divisional team.

As it was, some divisional teams were struggling to get a team together anyway, a couple of times only the bare minimum of numbers being available. And in a few instances in recent years the lopsided nature of some divisional games has been very apparent.

Cronin believes that divisional teams alongside the colleges will be playing midweek games and if the club has a championship game maybe 48 or 72 hours later, players simply will not be released.

Imokilly are going for four-in-a-row of titles and if that came to pass it would be some achievement for a division.

Anthony Spillane, Imokilly, going past Brian Moylan, Glen Rovers, in last year's final. Picture: Dan Linehan
Anthony Spillane, Imokilly, going past Brian Moylan, Glen Rovers, in last year's final. Picture: Dan Linehan

They are fully committed to that objective and in the past, the co-operation of the clubs has been first class.

And that is one of the primary reasons why they have been so successful, the co-operation of all the relevant personnel, clubs, divisional board, an excellent backroom team and the desire of players.

They will be down a few players this time but there is no shortage of replacement to come in and fill the breach.

However, that togetherness is surely going to be tested because of time constraints. Club bosses might be very slow in releasing players.

It’s a wait and see situation really but do not be surprised if some divisions decide to opt-out as Cronin suggested.

When the county championship starts up in the latter part of next month it’s going to be helter-skelter stuff, it’s going to have to be if the time schedule is to be met.

One way or the other, Imokilly will spare nothing in their effort again, Cronin’s management team will ensure that.

But this will be a big test for everybody.

The County Board indicated at their monthly meeting recently that they are hoping to press ahead with their new round-robin championship format, every club team is assured of at least three games.

They have to be complimented for their optimism but it’s going to be a big ask with the time constraints involved, getting it all done in an 11-week window. If it’s achieved and they believe it’s doable it will require a lot of planning and co-operation from all sides.

The clubs will take preference over the divisions, that goes without saying and, of course, you are going to have the inter-county manager calling when the inter-county teams are allowed back training in September.

If a club is still heavily immersed in the championship when the inter-county team is officially able to resume it’s going to be very interesting how that will pan out.

How will county training and county championship games work out, there could be a right tug of war.

Cork as a county is, of course, unique because of the vast number of clubs and the number of competitions to have to be run off.

To be fair the county board deserves great credit year in, year out for doing a great job in that regard and they are always ready to forward their representative for the provincial club championship.

But everybody is entering uncharted waters now and a huge amount of co-operation and goodwill is going to be required. Maybe the best way for everybody would be to revert back to the old system of knockout or alternatively one back door chance being available.

Everything will have to be sorted fairly quickly and a schedule drawn up so that clubs know where they stand.

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