WHEN UCC goalkeeper Jack Barry stood up to take a late penalty against Bishopstown in round 3 of the county SHC at Ballinlough a few weeks ago, he had the fate of three teams in his hand.
Obviously, with the College trailing the Town by 0-17 to 1-12 and time almost up, the success of his puck would determine which team advanced to the quarter-finals, while Bandon’s future was also in the balance.
Under the grading system used by the county board to determine who makes up the 12-team premier senior and senior A grades for 2020, the eight quarter-finalists were guaranteed spots in the top tier, with the other four places dependent on results over the previous three years.
At the outset of the campaign, Bandon were ranked ninth and gained 10 more points with their first-round win over Newcestown in April. The Lilywhites weren’t in action again until August, a clash against Carrigtwohill, with the double prize of a quarter-final spot and premier senior for the winners.
While Carrig won that game, Bandon’s hopes still weren’t completely dashed but they were pushed further down the standings as Ballyhea also reached the last eight. Ahead of the UCC-Bishopstown game, they were in 12th with the Town 13th but Barry’s penalty miss meant that the city side prevailed and secured their spot, leaving Bandon with the unlucky 13.
It means that premier senior will be contested by Glen Rovers, Sarsfields, St Finbarr’s, Bishopstown, Newtownshandrum, Ballyhea, Carrigtwohill, Midleton, Blackrock, Erin’s Own, Douglas and Na Piarsaigh. The new second tier will include current premier sides Bandon, Ballymartle, Newcestwon, Killeagh, Bride Rovers, Kanturk and Charleville as well as five sides drawn from the current premier intermediate championship.
In football, the 12 to make premier senior are St Finbarr’s, Nemo Rangers, Ballincollig, Douglas, Clonakilty, Ilen Rovers, Newcestown, Carbery Rangers, Castlehaven, Valley Rovers, Bishopstown and Carrigaline. Left in 13th are O’Donovan Rossa, who will take part in senior A along with Kiskeam, Clyda Rovers, St Nicholas, Dohenys, Mallow, Fermoy and the PIFC qualifiers.
The change in format does throw up something of an anomaly in that Cork’s Munster club championship representatives at senior, intermediate and junior level will be the winners of the first, third and fifth tiers respectively. However, if the second tier was premier intermediate rather than senior A, the potential for divisional sides to be even stronger would exist. Obviously, trying to balance everything is not easy and there has been criticism of the new way things will operate but any change does at least deserve a trial to ascertain its viability.
Regarding the All-Ireland final, obviously Dublin’s five in a row is an incredible achievement. While they do have huge advantages in terms of population and funding, to a certain extent the Metropolitans have always had such benefits without making the most of them and we have seen plenty of examples of teams in all sports failing to maximise their considerable resources.
To some degree, the Dubs don’t draw warmth from outside the county as the two people who lead them, manager Jim Gavin and captain Stephen Cluxton, are seen as dour figures who don’t exude charisma. They can only be themselves though and what they are, seems to work for them and Dublin.
In terms of the game itself, the widespread expectation that Dublin had more room for improvement was borne out and their ability to hit opponents immediately after half-time is hugely impressive. Looking through a Cork prism, the team that beat the Rebels by 13 points had six to spare over the side that beat them by three – obviously, such things can’t be looked at in terms of mathematical equations, but it would seem to bear out the standings.
Cork will know that they can improve further in 2020, especially with the stars of the U20 campaign able to be blooded in what should be a successful Division 3 league campaign. However, without a doubt Kerry will also be a better side next year, almost certainly even closer to Dublin. How Dublin evolve will be interesting to see – there is a cachet in five in a row, but will the same hunger exist to win six?