GAA motion to allow a new championship structure is passed unopposed

GAA motion to allow a new championship structure is passed unopposed
Patrick Horgan of Cork in action against Seamus Keating of Waterford in a Munster championship clash in Thurles. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

CLUB before county.

It's something the GAA must bear in mind when they come up with a formula for the championships once they're given the all-clear from the government. 

The Association today held a Special Congress remotely at which a motion was passed unopposed to give them the power to alter the current structures for whenever the GAA resumes training and games. 

They've already said July is the earliest that will happen. The exact details of new-look hurling and football competitions can only be ironed out what a definite return is scheduled.

That could involve holding games behind closed doors or with significantly reduced attendances, while the provincial hurling round-robin and the Super 8 football quarter-finals are certain to go in favour of a straightforward backdoor. 

While the inter-county game is the pinnacle of hurling and football, the club is its lifeblood.

You start with your club, finish up there too and anything in between is a bonus. Even you’re lucky enough to savour glorious days in Rebel red.

For many players, the only thing that matches or even tops Munster or All-Ireland success with Cork is a county title.

Ballincollig's John Miskella gets the ball away from Carbery Rangers' Kevin MacMahon wore the Cork geansaí but also won senior counties. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballincollig's John Miskella gets the ball away from Carbery Rangers' Kevin MacMahon wore the Cork geansaí but also won senior counties. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Whenever this episode of the Twilight Zone is over and it’s safe to return to the GAA fields, it’s almost certainly going to be at club level first.

Tipp legend Lar Corbett summed it up perfectly in the Irish Examiner: “You have the club people getting a lift straight away and the numbers at games would be safer.

“I wouldn’t like to see the county take over things so that 40 guys are playing for Tipperary and everyone else has to wait. When this thing turns and sport comes back, I would like to see that the clubs get preference because people in every corner of Ireland will need a lift and it’s the lift to the communities that will mean the most.”Lar Corbett, Tipperary, in action against Christopher Joyce, Cork, in a league game at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Lar Corbett, Tipperary, in action against Christopher Joyce, Cork, in a league game at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE
Lar Corbett, Tipperary, in action against Christopher Joyce, Cork, in a league game at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/SPORTSFILE

Éire Óg’s Orlaith Cremin and Nevaeh O’Connell of Sarsfields in last year’s Féile final. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

On a practical basis with mass gatherings an issue cramming supporters into the Páirc or Semple Stadium would be far riskier than the Barrs versus the Glen.

Carefully managing attendances from underage up to elite level is going to a significant challenge for the GAA.

The current suggestion is that there will be a period of up to a month of club activity before any inter-county return, which would push the senior All-Irelands into the winter.

The club games would be an opportunity to slowly crank up the GAA season and could mean players training with the county team in conjunction with club games. That would be a big ask but then these are unique times.

The dual demands and size of Cork mean it will be a gargantuan task to put a coherent plan in place.

Same as ever, balancing the requirements of the chosen few at inter-county with the majority of the hurlers and footballers on Leeside is a serious challenge.

The new club round-robin format certainly won’t be workable and lining out for a division or college as well as a club might not be practical, especially for those who are also Cork seniors.

From the elite competitions for Liam McCarthy and Sam Maguire right down to junior, the backdoor format which gives every team at least two games will have to suffice.

Valley Rovers' David Carthew shoots under pressure from Kilcormac Killoughey's Donnacha Kilmartin last year in the Féile on Leeside. Picture: David Keane. 
Valley Rovers' David Carthew shoots under pressure from Kilcormac Killoughey's Donnacha Kilmartin last year in the Féile on Leeside. Picture: David Keane. 

On a side note, it would be great to see an in-house Féile blitz, without a national stage, run for the teenagers missing out on that experience. While there’s still a championship, Féile is a significant experience for U14s.

Already, development squad activity from U14 to U17, the Celtic Challenge series for those not on the minor panel, is off for 2020. Hopefully, the minor grades, and the U20 hurling competition, can be slotted in somewhere.

Donal Óg Cusack is at the helm of an outstanding minor hurling set-up and the credentials of the Bobbie Dwyer’s football management group were proven with an All-Ireland last season. Both groups had put in significant groundwork before the Covid-19 shutdown.

Cork minor hurling manager Donal Óg Cusack has a one-year term. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Cork minor hurling manager Donal Óg Cusack has a one-year term. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Cusack, who has Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Tom Kenny, and Fraggie Murphy in his backroom, is in a situation akin to the Mick McCarthy/Stephen Kenny dynamic. Carrigtwohill’s Noel Furlong is already earmarked as minor boss in 2021, having been involved with the on-the-age group next year through the academies.

Cusack and Furlong are serious hurling men, what ever way the rest of this strange year pans out, Cork needs them both in prominent roles.

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