Issues to be solved by Cork County Board and at underage level before any return to hurling and football action

Issues to be solved by Cork County Board and at underage level before any return to hurling and football action
Fr O'Neill's Kevin O'Sullivan strikes over a free against Kilworth in the 2019 PIHC final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE Cork County Board still hope to bring in a round-robin format for the 2020 championship to maximise the 11-week window for the club game currently allowed by the GAA.

The board is also exploring the idea of streaming club matches in a bid to generate revenue and allow those unable to attend games because of restrictions on mass gatherings the opportunity to see their local heroes in action.

Kieran Histon, Imokilly, going past Liam Coughlan and Patrick Horgan, Glen Rovers. Picture: Dan Linehan
Kieran Histon, Imokilly, going past Liam Coughlan and Patrick Horgan, Glen Rovers. Picture: Dan Linehan

Last winter, clubs voted to restructure the Cork championships, introducing an extra tier in both codes and a group format that guaranteed every team three matches, while also bringing back transparent relegation. 

It had been expected the board executive would this week put those alterations on hold and opt for the familiar backdoor style championships. Instead, they're holding firm on any decision until there is clarity on the inter-county situation. 

A big question is what happens to the best club players whose teams reach the latter stages of club championships, running at the end of September when Cork teams are back on the training ground. Inter-county managers like Waterford's Liam Cahilly have already queried how they'll prepare for action with such a short run-in. 

Conor Lehane will be in demand for Midleton and Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Conor Lehane will be in demand for Midleton and Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

The Association's plan for the resumption of hurling and football restricts inter-county teams from training until September 14 with no provincial or All-Ireland series until at least October 17. They won't reveal the fixtures for the elite teams until later this month, with clubs re-opening their pitches from June 29.

There is a possibility the All-Ireland finals will roll into 2021, though ideally they will be played in the first three weeks of December. The outstanding league ties are still up in the air, a frustrating situation for the Cork footballers who were on the brink of promotion back to Division 2.

At adult level in Cork, the club set-up is more complicated than any other in the country. 

There is a huge crossover of players in both codes, the presence of colleges and divisions in the senior ranks, with Imokilly the dominant force in hurling, and a strong junior scene, which takes in eight divisions before the county section kicks in. 

Nemo keeper Micheál Aodh Martin beaking out against Duhallow last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo keeper Micheál Aodh Martin beaking out against Duhallow last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Clubs have been afforded that 11-week gap from July 31 to complete all championships. 

That will apply to Rebel Óg as well if they decide to go ahead with minor championships, as the inter-county minor games for 2020 are set to be run-off into the winter. 

The body for Cork underage competitions has yet to decide on their revised formats for this year, though in all likelihood there will only be leagues from U16 downwards. 

The usual blitzes for the Primary School age groups will be heavily curtailed. Many clubs will wait for Phase Four of the government roadmap on July 20 before allowing their youngest players back training. 

Until social distancing is lifted it will be extremely difficult to expect kids as young as five to partake in sessions. Or for coaches to run them safely per the new rules. 

The GAA should have limited the initial post-Covid return from June 29 to July 20 for adults-only, or at least from teenagers up, instead of placing the burden on clubs to decide what to do. 

A statement issued on Tuesday night explained: "At tonight’s meeting of the County Executive, consideration was given to County Championship formats for 2020.

"The preference remains for a group stage championship in line with the format approved by clubs last year, subject to the window available.

Barrs ace Steven Sherlock taking on Carbery Rangers. Picture: Gavin Browne
Barrs ace Steven Sherlock taking on Carbery Rangers. Picture: Gavin Browne

"With inter-county games resuming on the weekend of October 17-18, we await the programme of inter-county activity from the GAA’s CCCC later this month to allow us to maximise the period of club activity from July onwards.

"Therefore, there will be no final decision on formats until that point.

"Meanwhile, a subgroup is examining the opportunities for the streaming of games to allow the greatest possible audience for the club programme and to facilitate those who are unable to attend.

"In the meantime, we thank all teams and club members for continuing to comply with government and GAA regulations."

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