Relegation issue is a huge conundrum for the clubs and Cork County Board

Relegation issue is a huge conundrum for the clubs and Cork County Board

Carrigaline’s David Drake loses his grip on Bishopstown’s Daniel O’Donovan. Both clubs will play in Division 3 of the league next year. Picture: Howard Crowdy

THE introduction of promotion and relegation in all the county leagues in both hurling and football for senior and intermediate clubs forms part of Cork's three-year strategic plan.

It was unveiled at the start of the week and is a wide-ranging document covering all aspects of the GAA on Leeside.

Promotion and relegation are already in place in football, from the Rochestown Park Hotel Division 1 to Division 4, catering for 11 teams in each division apart from the lowest rung, which has one less.

It's a straightforward system of two up and two down and next season will be its fourth year.

So, how do you measure the success of the leagues because they mean all things to all involved and depending on the time of year, too?

Some take them seriously and they're usually the clubs which concentrate on one code in the main and treat the other as less important.

Dual senior clubs and those operating at premier intermediate level generally tend to have major issues, which are compounded by supplying players to represent Cork regardless of code.

It has become the accepted norm that county players rarely, if ever, tog out for their clubs in leagues and that's unlikely to change now that the national football and hurling leagues will start earlier than usual in 2018.

And that's the central plank of the clubs' argument that implementing relegation places them at a serious disadvantage because they're unable to field full-strength teams compared to their rivals who don't have any county connections.

It's a huge conundrum, particularly for the board, who admitted as much during the launch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Outgoing chairman, Ger Lane, who will pass the baton to Tracey Kennedy, said he was intrigued as why games aren't more competitive. “At times they are treated like challenge matches,” he added.

And Richard Murphy, who chaired the steering group, which produced a first-class document, suggested the board may not have all the answers either.

Organising relevant leagues is as critical as having fit-for-purpose championships, a topic which we touched on during the week because there must be strong links between the two.

A quick look at the make-up of the five football leagues next season provides glaring examples as to why that should be the case.

For instance there are senior clubs in Divisions 4 and 5 and you'd have to ask the obvious question as to how that benefits the championship?

The 11 clubs which make up Division 1 will consist of seven senior, three premier intermediate and one lower intermediate, Cill na Martra, who have made remarkable strides in recent years.

They swept through Division 2 with a 100% record and also reached the county U21 final, as well as reaching the last-four in the intermediate championship.

In theory, Cill na Martra should prosper from playing against so many higher-ranked teams, especially as they're a football-only club, when it comes around to the championship time again next summer/autumn.

Division 2 will have six senior clubs, their ranks swelled by the relegation of Castlehaven and Ilen Rovers at the end of this season, four premier intermediates and a lone intermediate representative, Aghabullogue.

Bishopstown, a dual senior club, slipped to Division 3, where they join Dohenys and Carrigaline in a section in which Bandon and Castletownbere are the newcomers.

Introducing promotion and relegation in hurling won't be as easy though there's no escape from the obvious that something needs to be done to make the RedFM senior league more relevant.

This season's experiment didn't work out as intended, a reflection of the lethargy held by many of the clubs.

The first phase of two groups of nine, each playing once, went well enough, but the second stage did not and was symptomatic.

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