Frustrating time for Cork GAA clubs with no return in sight

Host of matches from 2020, including finals, were left unlayed
Frustrating time for Cork GAA clubs with no return in sight

Kilbrittain's Conor Moloney is tackled by Castlemartyr's Adrian Bowens during the Co-Op Superstores Cork LIHC at Páirc Uí Rinn. That championship must be finished this year. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHO’D be an official trying to sort out fixtures in the current predicament?

Only recently Cork vice-chairman Pat Horgan outlined, in a remote county board meeting, that a master schedule of games has just been compiled.

But, no sooner had he finished than the picture changed dramatically once more with the revelation the GAA’s Level 5 exemption wouldn’t be extended to 2021.

Just to re-cap the successful completion of the provincial and All-Ireland championships, behind closed doors, was only allowed due to the Government granting a special dispensation.

Naturally, there was another huge sigh of frustration from all involved, inter-county players, club players, managers, coaches, selectors, officials and the wider GAA public.

So, where are we now in terms of the 2021 season?

In a recent radio interview with County Sound’s John Cashman, Horgan admitted it looks like the new season will be all too familiar to 2020, but nobody knows with any degree of certainty.

“We will have to wait until the Central Competitions Control Committee in Croke Park puts a masters fixtures plan together again,” he said.

“And it’s not going to be easy and I think we are going to have a shortened season without a shadow of a doubt.

“It looks to me the first inter-county games won’t take place until May.

Some people might say why don’t we flip the season, but the problem with that is to play club games the country must be at Level 2.

“I can only assume that inter-county is now at Level 4 which puts a completely different complexion on it.

“I would say Ned Quinn and his colleagues in Croke Park will have to sit down and look at it.

“And once we know the lie of the land we will have to go back to the drawing board.”

Health advisors are saying the return of large gatherings won’t happen for six months and this line of thinking has clear and obvious implications for sport, too.

Horgan, though, doesn’t have any fears for the 2021 championship but is greatly concerned about wrapping up the outstanding championships leftover from last season.

 Nemo Rangers' Luke Connolly about to take a free from Duhallow's Daniel O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers' Luke Connolly about to take a free from Duhallow's Daniel O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“We will have to put a plan in place, taking on board the issue of dual clubs. The split season, we all think is going to be the solution, but I find that funny.

“I was chairman of the senior hurling leagues when we used to meet in Sars, and Tony Maher from the Barrs was saying we needed a split season.

“Now we have it in some form or fashion and that is the solution even though it has taken a pandemic to actually bring us to a position in the future that we can fix the fixture dilemma between club and county.

“I believe the format is there to move forward, but overall it now looks as if 2021 is going to very similar to the 2020 season, unfortunately.”

The current impasse has led to a lot of head-scratching with people wondering how it’s all going to unravel.

It’s very obvious now that inter-county training won’t start until Easter Sunday with the clubs maybe a week or two after that.

“We have to give teams time to prepare. We may be going back to the old position that once Cork are out of the championship you will be playing with your club within two weeks.”

LEAGUE

The future of the national leagues is clouded in uncertainty with major questions over the 2021 version actually taking place with obvious implications for championship.

“If you don’t play a league game, then you’re crisscrossing the province or the country to play challenge matches.

“There must be games in preparation for championship so they might use that for a shortened league. That might be the solution.

“Until such time as the Government gives us the plan for living with Covid and the GAA nationally looks at it in terms of fixtures, we’re left wondering how it’s going to work out.

“Something, though, has to give and that will probably be towards the end of the season,” Horgan concluded.

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