LAST week, Cork GAA chiefs unveiled an historic master fixtures plan for 2020.
It’s to cater for club players of all abilities and gives them the opportunity to plan for life outside the playing of games.
It’s the first of its kind, in great detail and follows the line what most of the other main-stream sports have been taking for some time now.
Alas, the schedule isn’t written in stone because of the vagaries of the county teams’ fortunes during the summer.
But, it has to be acknowledged as a big step in the right direction, though it clearly needs the co-operation of the clubs for it to succeed.
Still, there’s a clear onus on those clubs to look at the bigger picture and avoid being self-centred because it’s their own players who’ve been clamouring for such a move.
Tomorrow is an important date in the process as it’s the cut-off point for confirmation of championship fixtures.
The board’s official announcement declared that ‘club observations must be submitted by close of business.’
And it stressed that ‘changes will only be made with agreement of both clubs, unless a compelling case is made to the CCC (Central Competitions Committee).
Already, the board have turned down club requests for league postponements, competitions starting in a few weeks, and that suggests the days of calling off games for flimsy reasons are going to be a thing of the past.
This has to be welcomed.
Sunday, February 2, is the start of the football leagues with four games listed in Rochestown Park Hotel Division 1, featuring county champions, Nemo Rangers, at home to Carbery Rangers.
There are games in all five divisions, all listed for 2pm starts, but whether that’s practical or not remains to be seen. The intention is encouraging, though.
The first hurling games are pencilled in for February 16 with eight matches in the RedFM first division.
Holders, Sarsfields, begin with an attractive home tie against Blackrock while there’s a north Cork derby between Kanturk and Charleville to whet the appetite.
As in football, there are games in all five divisions, all with 2pm throw-in times. Whether that’s feasible, however, remains to be seen.
Games alternate between Saturdays and Sundays to avoid clashes with Cork teams in the national leagues.
The first game in the senior football championship, which has a new look to it with two grades, premier and senior, and a group phase leading to knock-out, is a city derby between Douglas and Bishopstown on Friday, April 2.
That weekend also includes Nemo taking on Valley Rovers, St Finbarr’s meeting Ballincollig and Newcestown facing Ilen Rovers.
The following weekend features the meeting of Carbery Rangers and Castlehaven.
The opening shots in the premier senior hurling championship, which has the same format as the football, will be fired on the weekend of April 19 with the stand-out fixtures of Sars-Midleton and the ‘Barrs-Glen Rovers.
In its declaration, the board stressed all efforts had been made to provide a balanced programme of games for club players in 2020, providing as much certainty as possible.
“The club championship programme was devised based on current inter-county panels and the assumption of Cork senior teams reaching an All-Ireland semi-final in hurling and the All-Ireland quarter-finals in football.
“If either team falls short of these targets, club championship games will not be brought forward unless there is a joint request to do so from both clubs.
“Obviously, if either county senior team proceeds further, adjustment will be required.
“There is also the uncertainty of the senior footballers being in tier 1 or 2.
“Similarly, an assumption that Cork U20 hurlers may proceed to the latter stages is incorporated.
“All efforts were made to facilitate clubs that submitted requests in regard to championship games.
“Club leagues are also incorporated with divisions 1-5 running from February 2 to July 12.
“League finals will take place on the following weekend, July 17-19,” the statement concluded.