Are Cork GAA fans too critical of divisional involvement in club championship?

Are Cork GAA fans too critical of divisional involvement in club championship?
Blackrock's Michael O'Halloran and Kieran Histon of Imokilly in action when the division landed the title in 2017. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

NOT for the first time, divisional teams’ participation in the Cork County senior hurling and football championships came under the spotlight at the county convention last Sunday.

In his report to the gathering of delegates, Cork CEO Kevin O’Donovan laid out a number of proposals to redress the balance for senior clubs.

He also noted that one would require superior levels of indifference to ignore the rumblings at club level and the reduced excitement and subsequent attendances when club teams exit the championship at the hands of a divisional team.

He suggested players who line for a county final winning college or divisional side would be ineligible to play for that side the following year. Another proposal was elegibility for college/divisional teams be restricted to intermediate A and junior players. A number of delegates took exception to those proposals, mainly Willie Ring from East Cork and Tony McAuliffe from Duhallow.

This thing with divisions comes about every few years, always in the aftermath of one of them being successful in the county arena as Imokilly have been now for the past three years. One wonders would it have cropped up at all if the East Cork side had not been as successful.

Outside of Imokilly and Duhallow in football, divisional teams have made little or no impact at all in the Cork championships. In fact, in some cases they struggle to put 15 players out on the field and they have been eliminated before you even knew it.

Some of the comments from Mr Ring and Mr McAuliffe and from Carbery delegate Tommy Lyons were interesting and ones that this column wholeheartedly agree with. Mr Ring stated: “Doing three-in-a-row s is not a regular phenomenon, it happens very rarely.”

Quite correct, in fact, the last time it was done was by the Beara footballers in the dark ages of the ‘ ‘30s, ‘32, ‘33 and ‘34.

Mr Ring also said achievement should be rewarded and not punished. The reason this particular Imokilly bunch of players is so successful is that a huge effort has been made by everyone involved, led superbly by team boss Fergal Condon.

Matt Aherne disagreed with the suggestion that divisional teams are loaded with inter-county players, that’s a total exaggeration, he said.

Again correct. Of the Imokilly team that started in this year’s county final, you had two players who featured with Cork in the championship this year, Seamie Harnedy and Bill Cooper.

You had three starters from junior clubs, Kieran Histon from Cobh, John Cronin from Lisgoold and Harnedy from St Ita’s When Imokilly won the first of its three titles in 2017 it was the first victory by a divisional hurling unit in 20 years.

So, it’s not a case of it happening every year. In fact, since records began back in 1888 between the two codes, hurling and football, divisional teams have been successful on just 25 occasions. 

And it wasn’t a case of Imokilly winning by a cricket score, they beat the Rockies by four points and the Glen by a couple of points this year. On another matter at convention, one has to agree with chair Tracey Kennedy who stated that there needs to be a discussion as to who would represent the county in the event of a division winning the championship.

She said that the situation whereby the losing county finalists go on to represent the county is unsatisfactory.

“I don’t think it’s fair to that the club, who lost the county final, to then be expected to go out within a short space of time and represent Cork.”

She’s correct there although in the past two Munster campaigns Midleton in 2018 and the Glen this year, both could, quite easily have won against Ballygunner and Borrisleigh respectively and they did themselves proud despite the heartbreak of losing the county.

However, maybe there should be a better way.

Finally, the appointment of Michael Duignan as the Offaly County Board chairman is a very interesting development.

A former star player now now moving from the playing field into the administrative arena.

Might this be a sign of things to come?

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