End of U21 football grade means Cork top the roll of honour

End of U21 football grade means Cork top the roll of honour
Colm O'Neill lifting the cup high as Cork players celebrate their 2009 U21 victory. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Mark Woods

Football

HISTORY will record that Cork were the most successful county in the All-Ireland U21 Football Championship, which reached the end of the road with Dublin's victory over Galway at the weekend.

Since its inception in 1964 following a Kerry motion to congress, Cork managed to get their hands on the Clarke Cup, named after the former Kildare secretary and treasurer, Tm Clarke, on 11 occasions.

They finished one ahead of great rivals Kerry with the Dubs, along with Mayo, Tyrone and Galway, claiming five wins apiece while there were two titles each for Roscommon, Derry and Donegal.

Other counties to enter the winners' enclosure were Kildare, Meath, Down, Offaly, Westmeath and Armagh.

Kerry appeared in the most number of finals, 17 in all, one ahead of Cork, who were beaten in five deciders, one less than Mayo.

The three-in-a-row was achieved only twice in the 53-year existence of a competition which struggled for a regular slot in the annual calendar, shunted from late in the season to March-April.

Kerry did it in first between 1975-77 before Cork emulated the near neighbours in the 1984-86 period.

Both Munster counties will attest to the championship's importance in terms of player development and ultimate senior success.

It's more than co-incidence that Kerry were the dominant county with the greatest team ever to play the game from the mid-70s while Cork's capturing of the Sam Maguire Cup in 1973, 1989-90 and more recently in 2010 was aided by U21 victories.

Indeed, the current achievements of the Dubs, who will be striving for three-in-a-row this summer, can also be traced to their U21 record, which is quite revealing in itself because they were late comers to the party.

The capital's first All-Ireland only arrived in 2003, but they've captured four of the last eight (2010, 12, 14 and this season) to again provide obvious evidence of the link between the grades.

From 2018 on it will be replaced by an U20 development competition with strings attached.

The new championship will be condensed between the months of June and August and games will have to be settled on the day.

No senior inter-county players will be allowed and if games are still level after extra-time a sudden-death free-taking shoot-out will take place to determine the outcome.

Meanwhile, the second-round pairings in the senior, premier intermediate and intermediate championships are now decided apart from the necessity of the Carbery-Ilen Rovers replay following their draw after extra-time in Castlehaven at the weekend and the Carrigaline-Clonakilty tie in the intermediate championship.

It means the Haven still don't know the identity of their round 2A opponents and it's the same for St Nick's, who await the losers in round 2B.

Football is put on hold as the hurling championships begin in earnest this weekend with games in all three grades.

The master championship programme has pencilled in the weekend of June 3-5 for the second round of football games, sandwiched in between Cork's likely appearances in the Munster championship.

The Saturday before (May 27) Cork play Waterford in Dungarvan in the first round and will be expected to advance to meet Tipperary in a repeat of last season on June 10 at Páirc Uí Rinn.

The draws are: SFC round 2A: Douglas v Carbery Rangers; Castlehaven v Carbery or Ilen Rovers; Nemo Rangers v Bishopstown; Avondhu v UCC; Ballincollig v Valley Rovers; Duhallow v Seandun.

Round 2B: Newcestown v St Finbarr's; Dohenys v CIT; O'Donovan Rossa v Clyda Rovers; Clonakilty v Muskerry; Kiskeam v Aghada; losers of Carbery v Ilen Rovers v St Nick's; Carrigaline v Beara.

PIFC round 2A: Ballingeary v Mallow; Macroom v Newmarket; St Michael's v Éire Óg; Castletownbere v Bantry Blues.

Round 2B: Bandon v Nemo Rangers; Naomh Abán v Fermoy; Na Piarsaigh v Grenagh; Ballinora v St Vincent's.

IFC round 2A: Carrigaline or Clonakilty v Cill na Martra; St Finbarr's v Aghabullogue; Rockchapel v Kanturk; Glenville v Kildorrery; Glanworth v Millstreet.

Round 2B: losers of Carrigaline v Clonakilty v Gabriel Rangers; Ballydesmond v Youghal; Adrigole v Mitchelstown; Kinsale v Glanmire; Douglas v Mayfield.

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