IN keeping with the times, tonight’s changing of the guard in Cork GAA’s hierarchy will be unique.
Instead of the annual gathering of the great and the good packed into Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the 2020 convention will be conducted remotely.
Those invited to participate will do so via desktop computers, laptops, and presumably other gadgets, too, such as handheld devices.
There are three changes at the top table, with Marc Sheehan coming in as chairman, Pat Horgan as vice-chair, and Jerry Walsh as coaching officer.
Kevin O’Donovan, the board’s CEO/secretary, praised his fellow officers, in his annual report, for their contributions to this most challenging of years.
“To our executive committee, your continued support and experience make the task possible and the strong levels of debate internally mean that all ideas are well and truly tested before they see the light of day. Of course, it is appropriate to single out our outgoing chairperson, Tracey Kennedy, in this regard.
“Over the past nine years as an officer, particularly in the past three in the driving seat of chair, you have been a constant source for change in the organisation, not just in terms of ideas, but in your approach and determination to allow all voices to be heard.
“I have no doubt that the seeds you have sown, in terms of championship reform, the football plan, the appointment of team managers, the formation of One Cork, and the steadying of the ship that is Páirc Uí Chaoimh, among many other initiatives, will bear a fruitful dividend for members in the years to come.
“We have no doubt that you will continue to be closely involved in Cork GAA to see the benefits.
“And a sincere welcome to our incoming chairperson, Marc Sheehan, who, after serving in many positions, will certainly bring his own stamp to matters with his customary professionalism.”
Delegates will hear about the uncertainty over the 2021 calendar.
“No decision has been made, at this point, with regard to a schedule of dates for the coming year.
“The format included here would require a club season with a minimum of 12 weeks. However, a period of 14 weeks or more would be more appropriate.
“Championship draws will take place when there is more certainty regarding the national calendar, and a championship programme will follow immediately after.
“The format/scheduling of divisional/colleges rounds will be confirmed at a later date, following consultation with the divisions and colleges.
“There has been no decision on the number of teams that will qualify for the U21 A football or junior A football and hurling county championships.
“It is planned to organise county senior and intermediate leagues (divisions 1-5) in 2021 along the same lines as last year.
“Teams that relegated in championship shall retain their league status, as both competitions are now decoupled.
“Teams relegated to junior A will retain their position in the county leagues, should they wish to do so.
“Plans to organise junior regional leagues in partnership with the divisions, as discussed last year, may be postponed until 2022, due to the prevailing uncertainty around 2021. Further consultations with the divisions to follow."
Meanwhile, Shane Supple, secretary of Rebel Óg, outlined the challenges (rural depopulation, referee recruitment and retention, and special supports), facing that body.
“They have been pointed out before, but are worth noting, as they still exist,” he writes in his report.
“While small-sided competitions may work at the lower age-groups, consideration also has to be given to help prepare boys to integrate into adult competitions of 15-a-side. An 11-a-side competition is a totally different game to a 15-a-side competition.”
Enlisting retired referees to mentor young referees is one way to recruit and keep referees, according to Supple.
“Referees have to be supported and a culture of respect be developed at all times. The ‘silent sidelines’ are helping greatly.
“Special supports should be directed at certain identifiable parts of the city and county to assist clubs in their efforts to promote Gaelic games.”