Cork GAA: Huge call ahead for county board on 2020 championship format

Cork GAA: Huge call ahead for county board on 2020 championship format
John O'Sullivan, Blackrock, scored a fine goal against Ballyhea in last year's opening round clash at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Larry Cummins

THERE are a couple of ways at weighing up the decisions by Waterford and Wexford boards to run off their senior hurling championships in the month of August.

First, it provides certainty to club players at a time when nobody can predict with any degree of confidence what’s going to happen next week, never mind further down the road.

Waterford re-jigged their format slightly to now have four groups of three, guaranteeing a minimum of two games in the month.

The play-offs conclude with the final scheduled for August 30, when defending champions and 18-times winners Ballygunner will be expected to appear once more.

Paddy Leavy of Ballygunner is tackled by Niall Kenny of Boris-Ileigh during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling final last winter at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Paddy Leavy of Ballygunner is tackled by Niall Kenny of Boris-Ileigh during the AIB Munster GAA Hurling final last winter at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

There will be no relegation and that should allow players hurl with a lot more freedom, providing even more entertainment. Ballygunner, who will be looking at atone for leaving a Munster club title behind them earlier in the year, are in the same group as Passage and Tallow.

Club players have been crying out for years for some degree of clarity regarding the thorny issue of fixtures. Now, the senior hurling and football clubs have certainty, no doubt, to the approval of new county hurling manager Liam Cahill.

Up the coast, Wexford are in the same position and hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald will give the thumbs up to the scheduling, allowing him a free hand, when inter-county training resumes on September 14.

There’s a counter-argument as echoed by the Club Players Association, at their AGM held remotely recently and issued a strongly-worded statement in the aftermath. “Suggestions of running of championships in blitz format or shrunk to a very tight timeframe to enable county preparations are sacrilege and will have long-lasting implications,” said chairman Micheal Brody.

Kilkenny’s Joey Holden battles Lee Chin of Wexford last summer. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr
Kilkenny’s Joey Holden battles Lee Chin of Wexford last summer. Picture: INPHO/Gary Carr

Of course, it’s splitting hairs and open to interpretation that staging a championship in its entirety in a month falls into a ‘blitz’, but we get the drift. It all goes back to Croke Park’s original plans of allowing an 11-week window for counties to complete their championships and the CPA believe that time-frame should be utilised to the maximum.

There’s no escape either from the elephant in the room in all of this… the county manager, who is counting down the days to September 14.

Already, the rumour mill is in full grind about this county’s hurlers and that county’s footballers back training, but social media, I’m sure, would be ablaze if there was any evidence.

That’s not to say counties can’t discuss tactics and video analysis in the run-up to their October 17 return, at the earliest, but it’s September 14 which looms ominously in the background.

The CPA believe sanctions must be imposed on counties that breach the guidelines on a return to inter-county training and called on the GAA to ‘take a stand for once and for all’.

They’ve also asked for clarity on what the GAA are “going to do to ensure all counties optimally use the 11 weeks allocated”, as well as ensuring that inter-county players aren’t pulled into county training during club championships.

Austin Gleeson of Waterford takes on Patrick Horgan. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Austin Gleeson of Waterford takes on Patrick Horgan. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

“Already we have seen different counties proposing blitz competitions to get club competitions out of the way so their inter-county teams can resume training as early as possible,” said Briody.

“Is this not a once in a lifetime opportunity for the leadership of the GAA to enforce fairness on each county so a level playing field is achieved?

“In some counties, inter-county managers have very strong influence over the fixtures scheduling.”

It seems round-robin formats are flavour of the month nationwide, including Cork.

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