Dual demands and number of clubs give Cork County Board tough task to come up with a new format

Dual demands and number of clubs give Cork County Board tough task to come up with a new format
St Finbarr's Damien Cahalane is tackled by Blackrock's Alan O'Callaghan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK GAA chiefs meet this week to begin construction on their own pathway to a return to games.

As has become the norm, it will take the shape of a remote call and it will be followed later in the week by the CCC knocking heads together to thrash out fixtures.

“Everything will be done in accordance with HSE guidelines,” said board PRO Joe Blake.

One of the first issues will be the format of the championships, which are due to start over the August weekend.

In senior football there are two grades of Premier A divided into three groups each of four teams and it’s the same for premier intermediate and intermediate.

Clubs voted overwhelmingly on this new format, but whether there’s enough time to complete a season is debatable, particularly with inter-county managers getting hold of their players from September 14.

Joe Blake, Cork PRO and Steve Cox at the launch of the 2020 Rochestown Park Hotel Cork County football leagues. Picture: David Keane.
Joe Blake, Cork PRO and Steve Cox at the launch of the 2020 Rochestown Park Hotel Cork County football leagues. Picture: David Keane.

The obvious way-out is a complete re-draw of all the championships based on a knock-out system with one back-door round for first-round losers.

And even with this, there’s sure to be another heated debate about clubs and their inter-county contingent being available to the parish.

And as we all know in Cork the number of dual players exacerbates an already tricky situation.

Nemo Rangers and Castlehaven are well represented in Cork boss Ronan McCarthy’s squad with Mark Collins also playing hurling with Douglas while Cork hurler Damien Cahalane also hurls with St Finbarr’s as well as playing football with Castlehaven.

“All options will be trashed out,” said Blake. “The CCC will make recommendations to the executive before the clubs have the final say.” 

Even the practicalities of organising a board meeting of over 100 delegates, given the constraints of social distancing, is just another headache to overcome.

You can be sure there are frantic phone calls being made behind the scenes between county secretary and CEO Kevin O’Donovan, managers Kieran Kingston and McCarthy and affected clubs to come up with some kind of consensus.

Mark Collins plays football for Castlehaven and hurling for Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Mark Collins plays football for Castlehaven and hurling for Douglas. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

Croke Park are busy, too, in trying to arrange a grand fixture programme and while the various senior football championships in the four provinces are set to remain in place, the hurling is sure to be looked at seriously.

The round-robin series, for all its popularity, again is facing major time constraints and a return to the same format as the football appears likely.

Cork are the defending All-Ireland minor football champions but have not kicked a ball in anger in 2020.

The Munster championship is based on Tipperary, Limerick, Waterford and Clare playing a round-robin series of games before Cork and Kerry collide in their first outings.

There are further games before determining the provincial finalists, but as is the case with the hurling, there’s bound to be a different format in place.

The expectation is that the minor football championship will follow the senior with a losers’ round the only difference.

Yet, before anyone can contemplate the return of competitive games there is a series of hoop-jumping to be performed.

All concerned, players, managers, coaches, selectors, physios et al will be brought up to speed with an educational programme on the ‘dos and don’t’s.’ For example, players will tog out at home before travelling to training and will return immediately when it’s over to shower back at base.

Dressingrooms and clubhouses will be out of bounds, when full-scale training is allowed from July 20.

Clubs will also have to appoint Covid-19 officials, part of whose tasks will be to check the temperatures of those involved in training.

Exceed the limit and you won’t be allowed to participate in that session. At least hope has been restored.

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