Paudie Palmer on why the divisional structure in Cork GAA must go

Current model of eight regions for junior clubs isn't fit for purpose argues our columnist
Paudie Palmer on why the divisional structure in Cork GAA must go

Midleton’s Sean O'Meara with Colm Spillane of Imokilly in the 2018 county final. While divisional teams continue to impress, there are major issues with how regional GAA is run. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

IF you live in the GAA bubble, or to be a little more accurate, if your contribution involves some scribbling on Gaelic matters, these are the times, of blank pages and desperation. 

Can you imagine having to write an article of interest for those deprived professional tennis players awaiting the beginning of the Australian Open, on the price of turnips in Shanballymore?

Yes, dear readers, it can be a challenge but notwithstanding that, can we excuse some members of the fourth estate whose levels of desperation, recently lead to ask the question 'Should inter-county players be moved up the vaccination league?' Really, the authors of these articles were certainly doing no favours for the players.  

To extrapolate that line of thinking, we could ask that when normality returns should the cars sponsored or otherwise belonging to these players be fitted with sirens and blue flashing lights to enable them to get through rush hour traffic on their way to training or bonding sessions? 

In no time, there will be calls that the doyen of sporting entitlement tennis player Novak Djokovic should address the next AGM of the GPA! 

Spare me. Small rant parked.

It’s been a while since divisional matters received an airing. In case you had forgotten there are eight divisional boards in Cork, each known by a name or sometimes by its geographical boundaries. Our city readers would be aware that their local GAA government is the Seandún Division or the City Division. 

The majority are now reaching their 100th birthday which means that there were set up for a completely different era.  If you go back just 30 years, these divisions, particularly the rural ones, were providing games for the first team in many clubs. 

That has changed and the number of clubs whose first teams are now serviced by the county board has grown enormously. 

This shift has greatly reduced the role of these local entities which has not been helped by the removal of minor and some U21 teams from their jurisdiction.  

Over the past three years, the Cork County Board executive made up of elected voluntary officers and the chief executive Kevin O'Donovan have to a great degree radicalised its championship programme making it club-friendly. There are more guaranteed championship games now, together with promotion and relegation. 

This was no easy feat, as the presence of vested interests was never far from the surface. A certain amount of democracy was involved. 

Can I humbly suggest that one of its next projects should be the reform of the divisions?

Sometimes when this subject comes up for discussion, some people confuse it with criticism of divisional teams in the senior grades, which isn’t anyway helpful. 

Seamus Hickey of Duhallow scores against Nemo. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Seamus Hickey of Duhallow scores against Nemo. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

For the purpose of this piece, we will just refer to the administrative structures.  

As some of you, who are regular visitors will be aware, this column is supportive of divisional existence but I do think there is a need for change and major change at that.  

Maybe, 2020 should never be used to cast judgement on the workings of any GAA body, but none the less a few scenarios emerged that raised serious questions. 

The following is not meant to be listed in order of importance.

DIVISIONAL FLAWS:  

When club activity resumed, we had at least one division who refused point-blank to facilitate the wishes of the catchment clubs and went ahead and played a knockout junior championship which meant that for half the teams involved, they got just one championship match. 

One of the big alterations that Covid visited on all GAA championships was that all games had to be finished on the day which saw extra time and penalties becoming part of the process. In relation to one divisional final, it was decided that in the event of a draw extra time would not be played. 

This despite the fact the Tyrone county senior football final included extra time and penalties.  

While the majority of divisions made huge progress to ensure that their junior championships were completed in time for county board deadlines, a number were either unable to do so. 

You don’t need me, to remind you of the way Zoom and Microsoft Teams have become part of our lives. Throughout the country on a daily basis, thousands of meetings are held virtually. For many GAA, camogie, ladies football and underage clubs of all three, they were able to hold their AGMs virtually. 

In many cases, the feedback received was that these meetings were attended by larger numbers than normal, and not only that, but the order of business was quite successful. It then seems incredulous that two divisions weren’t able to host their AGM, even allowing issues with Wi-Fi connectivity. Totally unacceptable.  

At times it's pitched as the divisional boards against the county board. It a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.  

Social media is now an integral part of any organisation be it commercial, cultural, educational, or sporting. Can I ask how many of the eight GAA divisions in Cork have Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts? 

And by the way, they are now considered to be the three basic platforms. Ask Donald Trump about the others!

It would of course be remiss of me not to acknowledge the excellent voluntary contribution made by the competent officers that operate on divisional boards. 

Sadly, however, as outlined in the few samples listed above, I have to conclude that a number of the eight divisions are not fit for modern purpose.  

The reform mentioned at the beginning can’t come quick enough and in future columns, we may return to this subject. In the meantime, it might be wise to remember that some institutions and individuals need to be informed of what is good for them. 

Out of adversity comes opportunities.  

CONTACT: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com on on Twitter @paudiep.

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