UCC Development Officer John Grainger was an interested observer as the delegates to the Cork County Convention debated two motions which could have affected the promotion of Gaelic Games within the third level colleges.
The first motion involved the participation of colleges and divisions while the second motion was to prevent players from other counties playing with either UCC/CIT in the Cork senior championships.
In the end, both motions were defeated which means the Colleges and Divisions will remain part of the county championships. With Imokilly after winning back-to-back senior hurling titles, many people felt it was an unfair attempt to get rid of them, but the debate on the night saw plenty of support for Imokilly.
Grainger says: “Obviously there are no changes to the rules which reflected the opinions of the wider GAA community across the whole county. I can certainly see both points of view but I’m on record acknowledging the outstanding work of the Imokilly division over the last number of years.
“It’s not easy to win any championship and the logistics involved for a divisional board is enormous. Firstly my playing career involved my club Cloughduv from when I was a toddler. I ended up playing with UCC while in College and also spent many great years representing Muskerry.
“Someone like Seamus Harnedy is someone who has achieved and benefited from the current system which most people regard as very fair. By his own admission, he struggled to make the Freshers team in UCC but eventually went on to win two Fitzgibbon titles in 2012/13.
“Over the last two years, he has been an integral part of Imokilly’s two county titles while also representing his club St Ita’s in the east Cork junior hurling championship.
“He is the Cork captain, a current All-Star and one of the leading forwards in the country. His development has been phenomenal and without the divisions and colleges Seamus would be unable to play in the senior hurling championship.
“Most genuine supporters would probably see that as a negative for our county championships. We all want to see the most talented players involved and the Gortroe man is one of the best.”
Generally, most clubs prefer avoiding the colleges in the draw but there is also a misconception about their success rates.
“The reality is UCC haven’t won the senior hurling championship since 1970 and the last football county won was won in 2011. But the modus operandi of UCC is to promote Gaelic Games in the college.
“We have about 500 registered members which is great.
“It enables very talented junior and intermediate players to play against the top players in the county and also enhances our championships. We try to play as many Cork based players as possible.
“Sometimes the media like to concentrate on the elite or county stars but this year we had players from Aghada, Mallow, Ballinora and Cloughduv in our starting senior championship team.
The affable Cloughduv man lives and breathes all things GAA and is currently preparing for the forthcoming championships while also enjoying the journey of his home club this season:
“There is great excitement at the start of the new season as we prepare our teams for the leagues. The Fitzgibbon and Sigerson always draw great crowds to the Mardyke during the winter months and all our players are supported by their clubs in these college competitions.
“It develops them to be better players as the competition at university level is very very tough. Finding a balance between the club, college or division is challenging as we see so many competitions being run off so late in the year. That isn’t ideal as our time with the players has become a bit more condensed.
“But at the end of the day, the players will go back to their clubs. Just like Seamus Harnedy goes back to Gortroe. Just like myself going back to follow Cloughduv winning a county and Munster title.
“Thankfully, the majority of the membership across the association in Cork understand that we are developing these players and strongly promoting our games during their third level education.”