The year isn't even over and the 2020 inter-county season is already underway

The year isn't even over and the 2020 inter-county season is already underway
Dan Corcoran of Louth in action against Ben Brennan of Meath during the 2020 O'Byrne Cup. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

ANYONE tuning into the national radio station last weekend could have been excused for being a touch confused.

They might have even questioned their hearing or wondered had they been transported forward in time.

Had even Christmas come and gone and they were after missing out on all the action?

No, their ears were not deceiving them and they were certainly in the moment.

The GAA’s 2020 inter-county season had actually started... on December 7!

Leinster officials, in their wisdom, decided to get their pre-season O’Byrne Cup competition up and running 18 days before the turkey is carved.

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy would have kept an ear out for a number of results in particular because three counties from the eastern province provide opposition in the league’s Division 3, which starts at the end of January.

And they all won: Offaly, Longford, and Louth.

Mike Quirke, in his first game as Offaly manager, recorded a 1-17 to 2-12 win over Laois in Portarlington.

Cork host Offaly in the first game in the league on at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on January 25 at 6pm.

Longford, who are at home to the Rebels in the concluding game on March 22, also made a winning start to the new season, registering a 2-14 to 0-14 win over Kildare in Newbridge, apparently pulling 13 players behind the ball when not in possession.

Louth, who visit Leeside on March 15 for the penultimate game in the division, started with a 1-9 to 0-10 win over Meath.

Both teams were of an experimental nature and they finished with 14 apiece following what was described as ‘a brief skirmish’ near the end. Would you be bothered?

Cork’s Ulster opponents, Down and Derry, who both have to travel, start on December 29 in the Dr McKenna Cup, which won’t have any third-level involvement this season because of the Sigerson Cup date change.

Down are in the same group as Antrim and Fermanagh while Derry have Monaghan and Donegal for company.

Leitrim are Cork’s only Connacht opponent in the league with McCarthy’s side travelling to Carrick-on-Shannon on February 2.

They won’t be in action again until January 12 against the winners of the Sligo-Roscommon tie in the FBD League.

Cork’s first game of the new season is also on December 29, when they face Kerry U20s in the McGrath Cup in Tralee at 2pm, followed by a home tie with Tipperary on January 2. Páirc Uí Rinn is the venue for the 7.30pm throw-in.

One of the more interesting aspects of the new season is the introduction of the experimental rules relating to the advanced mark, sin bin, and 20m kick-out.

Cork’s fixtures:

McGrath Cup:

December 29: Kerry v Cork, Austin Stack Park, Tralee, 2pm.

January 2: Cork v Tipperary, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.30.

January 11: Final.

NFL Division 3:

January 25: Cork v Offaly, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 6pm.

February 2: Leitrim v Cork, Carrick-on-Shannon, 2pm.

February 8: Cork v Down, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.

February 22: Tipperary v Cork, Thurles, 7pm.

March 1: Cork v Derry, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.

March 15: Cork v Louth, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, 2pm.

March 22: Longford v Cork, Pearse Park, 2pm.

March 28: Final Munster U20 Football Championship: February 19: Cork v Clare or Waterford.

February 26: Final

Dr Harty Cup fixtures: January 8: Quarter-finals: (1) CBC v St Colman’s, Fermoy; (2) Midleton CBS v DLS, Waterford; (3) St Flannan’s v St Joseph’s, Tulla; (4) Thurles CBS v Our Lady’s, Templemore. Semi-finals: 1 v 2, 3 v 4.

Corn Uí Mhuirí fixtures: January 15: Quarter-finals: (1) Hamilton High School, Bandon v Tralee CBS; (2) Pobalscoil Rathmore v Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig; (3) St Brendan’s, Killarney v St Flannan’s; (4) St Francis College, Rochestown v Clonakilty Community College. Semi-finals: 1 v 2, 3 v 4.

Sigerson Cup Round 1: NUIG v UCC; IT Tralee v IT Carlow; IT Sligo v UL; Athlone IT v Letterkenny IT, UCD v UUJ; Maynooth University v St Mary’s; DCU v Garda College; Queens University v TU Dublin (formerly Dublin IT).

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