Cork players back on club duty for crucial championship action

Cork players back on club duty for crucial championship action
Pat Prendergast, Bandon, Aidan Walsh, Kanturk, Bart Daly, Newmarket, Paul Cronin, St. Michaels, Danny O'Connell, Cill Na Martra, Fintan O'Connor, Knocknagree and Dave Dineen, Mitchelstown. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

IT hardly has the feel of championship season, yet the various county football versions begin this weekend with games in most grades, ranging from senior to junior 'C'.

Much of it has, probably, got do with the wintry weather, which has stuck around far too long for most people and certainly doesn't lend itself to the start of the championship year.

Even though the competition started around the same time 12 months ago, it seems like an earlier than usual opening, but with a different format to 2017.

For the past few years first round winners and losers went their separate ways, the former meeting in round 2A and the latter in round 2B.

From there, round 2A winners advanced to the fourth round with the losers provided with another opportunity in round 3 along with the round 2B winners.

This season, it's more straightforward with round 1 winners progressing to round 3 and round 2 losers meeting to determine who moves on in the main championship.

Already, two round 3 teams are known in senior football after Duhallow and CIT emerged from the divisions/colleges sections, which had straight knock-out games and no back-door route.

Games involving Cork players, both football and hurling, are being played against a backdrop of recent behind-the-scenes meetings regarding their release back to their clubs.

There was widespread confusion surrounding Croke Park's flippant throw-away line about April being the preserve of the clubs only and counties apparently taking a back seat.

It had the impression of Croker throwing a bone to the clubs to pacify them a bit like what you'd give a dog except there was no meat on it.

Authorities, basically, flung the problem back to the counties, where there is no uniformity in terms of the championship season.

Some won't start their club championships until the county's season is done and dusted though the majority tend to juggle both, as is the case here in Cork.

All during the leagues, the question was asked of what a club-only-April mean in real terms, but nobody could give a precise answer.

For example, will counties still be training during the week and players only available to their clubs for games at the weekends? How is it supposed to work?

The absence of any guidelines from Croke Park left county managers and their club equivalent in the dark and clarity only emerged after discussions between all the relevant parties, when there had to be a bit of give-and-take.

All this could have been avoided so easily if Croker had fleshed out exactly what they understood to be club-only-April.

So, this weekend sees that start of Cork players togging out with their clubs in championship.

Mallow return to senior football after almost a decade and while manager Keith Moynihan believes the game will come too soon for Jim Loughrey, who is on the mend from ankle surgery, Mattie Taylor, who got a lot of game time in the national league, will be in the side to face Valley Rovers at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday at 6.15.

That's followed by the city derby between Bishopstown, who have Jamie O'Sullivan and Conor Dorman, and Douglas, with Kevin Flahive, Sean Wilson and the hurling trio, Eoin and Alan Cadogan as well as Shane Kingston in their line-up, though injury rules out Sean Powter.

Ryan Price will be in goal for O'Donovan Rossa against Aghada In Ballygarvan on Sunday afternoon while Donncha O'Connor embarks on another intermediate campaign with Ballydesmond.

FIXTURES: TOMORROW: County J'C'FC R1 Tullylease v Ballyphehane, Glantane, 8pm 

SATURDAY: County SFC Preliminary Round Valley Rovers v Mallow, Páirc Uí Rinn, 6.15; R1 Bishopstown v Douglas, 8pm 

County IFC Preliminary Round Mayfield v Glenville, Delanys, 6.15; R1 Grenagh v Glanworth, Killavullen, 6.15 

County J'B'FC R1 Grange v Rathpeacon, Rathcormac, 5pm; Whitechurch v Shanballymore, Mallow, 5pm; Deel Rovers v Glengarriffe, Macroom, 5pm; Crosshaven v Araglen, Watergrasshill, 5pm; Kilbrin v Ballinacurra, Killavullen, 5pm 

County J'C'FC R1 Abbey Rovers v Ballinure, Castlelyons, 5pm; St John's v Gleann na Laoi, Carrigadrohid, 5pm; Freemount v Glenlara, Kanturk, 5pm 

SUNDAY: County SFC R1 O'Donovan Rossa v Aghada, Ballygarvan, 3.30; Kiskeam v St Nick's, Mallow, 3.45 

County PIFC R1 Na Piarsaigh v Newmarket, Mallow, 2pm; St Vincent's v Castletownbere, Inchigeela, 3.30; Bandon v Naomh Abán, Carrigadrohid, 2pm; Macroom v St Michael's, Ovens, 3pm

County IFC R1 Aghabullogue v Ballydesmond, Millstreet, 6.15

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