Clubs having to play without county players is a slippery slope Cork shouldn't go down

Clubs having to play without county players is a slippery slope Cork shouldn't go down
Glen Rovers talisman Patrick Horgan drives a penalty into the net. Picture: Larry Cummins

EVERY year, rightly or wrongly, the name of St Nick’s is invariably linked with relegation from the senior football championship.

It’s hung like a gallows noose over their heads, but each time they’ve wriggled free and escape for another season.

New senior manager, Robert Brosnan, was shooting the breeze earlier in the week at the launch of the championships, which bursts into life the weekend after next.

Anyone who saw him soldier in the famous black-and-white jersey, during a long-and-proud career, will know what competing in the top-grade championship in Cork meant to Brosnan, and to his brothers.

It’s accepted that hurling is numero uno out Blackpool direction and nobody needs any reminders about what Glen Rovers have done, and are still doing, for hurling on the city’s north side.

The same fine hurlers are also more than capable footballers in the main, but modern constraints are diminishing their opportunities to dabble in both.

Take Patrick Horgan, for example. It’s been a long time since the ace Cork marksman lined out for Nick’s and that’s due more to the time he devotes to hurling than any disregard for the sister club.

The prospect of Horgan even appearing again for Nick’s is almost certainly wiped out with the new championship proposals being discussed by clubs all over the city and county.

We can say, with a fair degree of certainty, that the notion of clubs lining out minus their Cork players in important championship games will be quickly kicked to touch, and rightly so.

This is the start of a potentially very slippery slope.

The current plan is for one or two games earlier in the championship, but you could see that developing such that clubs won’t have their star players at all in championship.

The GAA should take serious note of what has happened and what is being proposed in club rugby in this country.

When that sport went professional, almost 25 years ago, some predicted the demise of the amateur element.

On the surface, the All-Ireland League, comprising five divisions of 10 clubs each, with promotion and relegation, looks ideal and, in many ways, it is, providing quality, meaningful games on 18 defined weekends.

But the knock-on effect in the lower grades has been to the detriment of clubs, who are struggling to field second, third, and more teams, as had been the norm.

If GAA clubs have to play without their Cork players, it will obviously impact on teams in other grades, who will have to fill the gaps.

The county board will decide on what format to use in deciding relegation later in the year.

Some say it should be based on results of the 2019 championships, soon to get underway in football, and then it’s hurling’s turn.

Others believe results from previous championships should be taken into account and that is sure to be a lively debate, when it comes around.

Brosnan spoke for many at the media launch. “I don’t really mind what happens, once it happens out on the field. If there is going to be relegation, let it happen on the pitch.

Robert Brosnan in action for St Nick's. Picture: Dan Linehan
Robert Brosnan in action for St Nick's. Picture: Dan Linehan

“The best teams will always win and if the county champions are crowned on the field of play, then the same should apply to relegation.

“It would be bad faith on the county board’s part for it to happen in any other way.

“Once everyone knows, at the start of the year, what the rules are, then I have no issue with that.

“St Nick’s have always managed to do what was asked of us on the pitch and it’s a challenge that we embrace,” he said.

There are 26 teams in the senior championship, 18 clubs, UCC and CIT, and six divisions in 2019.

How many will there be, and in what format, from next year on, will be awaited with interest.

The coming days are players’ opportunities to speak up and be heard.

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