Cork GAA: Opening weekend of the football championship will be electric

Cork GAA: Opening weekend of the football championship will be electric
Fionn O'Rourke, Éire Óg, and Bantry midfielder Steven Coughlan challenge in the air for possession. The clubs have had some great games in recent years. Picture: Larry Cummins

AS always, the devil is in the detail and the county board’s welcome declaration of their planned championship season was no different.

Prior to lockdown, teams contesting the new-look premier senior and senior A championships in football and hurling could finish third in their four-team groups and still make the knock-outs.

Originally it was intended for the best third-place side to face the second best and the third best taking on the winner of the division/colleges section in preliminary quarter-finals.

That’s now kicked to touch and replaced with a new format whereby only the best group winner will qualify for the semi-finals.

The remaining two group winners, as well as the three runners-up along with the division/colleges winner complete the quarter-finals.

So finishing third in your section counts for very little apart from avoiding the relegation play-off which will be played by the two lowest ranked teams in terms of points and scoring.

It means added spice to some of the premier senior football groups like the all-West Cork quartet of Carbery Rangers, Castlehaven, Ilen Rovers and Newcestown. Try picking two there!

And it’s the same in senior A with Kiskeam, Mallow, Bantry Blues, and Éire Óg all battling for top-two finishes.

The same format applies for premier intermediate while the intermediate A football championship remains four groups of four with the top two progressing.

With scoring difference potentially deciding the final composition of groups, it should result in teams competing to the final whistle in all games.

Everyone involved is now waiting for some flesh to be applied to the skeleton in terms of dates, times, and venues with an announcement due next week.

Phase 4 of the government’s roadmap, which is due to come into effect on July 20, was a factor in determining the starting dates of the championship.

Part of that phase allows dressingrooms to re-open and crowds up to 500 to assemble.

You’d imagine one of the biggest headaches facing board officers is the choice of venues for rural games in particular, especially since double-headers are not on the agenda.

If an attendance of 500 people is considered the maximum permitted, how do you deal with that? And then policing social distancing in grounds is another issue.

Páirc Uí Chaoimh will host a lot of club games in the coming weeks. Picture: Larry Cummins. 
Páirc Uí Chaoimh will host a lot of club games in the coming weeks. Picture: Larry Cummins. 

These are just two of a range of topics to be thrashed out, with Croke Park and health advisors highly influential in finalising a blueprint.

And clubs will have similar problems to overcome in terms of players’ availability, not because of their own health risks, but those of their families.

It’s not unusual to have three generations under the one roof with underlying health matters at play, too.

Either way, all things being equal games start on Friday, July 24 with the finals planned for October 2-4.

Inter-county remains the elephant in the room with teams officially allowed return to collective training on September 14.


JULY 24-26

Premier SFC Group 1: St Finbarr’s v Ballincollig; Clonakilty v Carrigaline.

Group 2: Newcestown v Ilen Rovers; Carbery Rangers v Castlehaven.

Group 3: Douglas v Bishopstown; Nemo Rangers v Valley Rovers.

SFC A: Group 1: O’Donovan Rossa v St Nick’s; St Michael’s v Ballingeary.

Group 2: Éire Óg v Bantry Blues; Kiskeam v Mallow.

Group 3: Clyda Rovers v Bandon; Dohenys v Fermoy.

Premier IFC: Group 1: Castletownbere v Aghada; Newmarket v Na Piarsaigh.

Group 2: St Vincent’s v Knocknagree; Naomh Aban v Cill na Martra.

Group 3: Macroom v Kanturk; Nemo Rangers v Gabriel Rangers.

IFC ‘A’: Group 1: Millstreet v St Finbarr’s; Glenville v Ballinora.

Group 2: Ballydesmond v Kinsale; Rochchapel v Dromtarriffe.

Group 3: Mitchelstown v Glanworth; Mayfield v Adrigole.

Group 4: Aghabullogue v Kildorrery; Glanmire v Kilshannig.

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