Cork club players need league games to fill the gap if inter-county goes first

A number of motions at GAA Congress will benefit the average hurler and football on Leeside
Cork club players need league games to fill the gap if inter-county goes first

Declan Dunne, Castletownbere, getting his shot in despite the best efforts of Knocknagree players Eoghan McSweeney and Michael Doyle in the Rochestown Park Hotel Division 4 Football League final in 2019. Picture: Dan Linehan

CLUB players up and down the country could finally be granted their long-running wish of a dedicated championship season.

A motion at today’s remotely staged Congress calls for the introduction of a split-season to be enshrined in rule.

It’s tabled by the Calendar Review Task Force, of which Cork CEO/Sec, Kevin O’Donovan, is a member.

Cork unanimously passed the motion at a special board meeting during the week and the expectation is that it will be given the thumbs-up today.

It would end situations like players waiting from April until October to play their next championship games.

“The concern always in Cork was that if there was a split season the club would start too late,” O’Donovan told delegates.

“This motion is to move All-Ireland finals much earlier so that the clubs get the second half of the summer for championship.

“We will still be playing club leagues during the inter-county programme minus Cork players.

“We don’t want to be restricting our club schedule into strict narrow windows and trying to finish them before inter-county,” O’Donovan added.

The motion was supported by county PRO Joe Blake.

“I’ve got a great insight into the fixtures situation here in Cork when working on the yearbook.

“Between the dual status players and clubs it gets very complicated, but this motion would give certainty to the club players in terms of a fixture schedule,” he said.

The same Croke Park committee has tabled another motion with an upper 16 team limit for senior county championships.

“In certain counties, there are difficulties with numbers of teams and we had that challenge in the past,” O’Donovan explained.

“Our committee felt that if you had 16 teams at senior and intermediate you can have group stages or knock-out and back-door.

“Last year our clubs voted for the best format and we got that. This motion is to help each county with their fixtures.

DIVISIONAL DIVIDE

“Cork has a slight anomaly with divisions and that was never in question in our committee deliberations.

“In fact, Cork’s 12-team competition is regarded as best practice and our eight divisions doesn’t mean we have 20 teams in the same competition.

“We effectively have two competitions, one with eight divisional teams, where the winner enters the quarter-final stage, and one with 12 club teams.

“There is no question mark over our divisions’ participation whatever motion is passed.

“What we want to do is bring some order to club championships because some counties are almost unmanageable.”

One of the outstanding inter-county games left hanging from 2020 is the All-Ireland U20 hurling final between Cork and the winners of the Dublin-Galway semi-final.

But, the Calendar Review Task Force has a motion calling for an end to All-Ireland semi-finals in the future.

“We believe there is enough for the winners in winning their provincial titles and going on to play in an All-Ireland final.

“It obviously means the runners-up in the provincial finals don’t proceed as was the case.

“It simplifies and cleans it. We don’t believe the runners-up in the Munster championship need to progress.

“It’s a knock-out competition, starting at quarter-finals, and that should continue to the final.

“It’s helping to reduce the overlap between inter-county and club activity.”

UNDERAGE

There is another motion curtailing U20 player eligibility for senior inter-county hurling

Cork's Shane O’Regan with Johnny Ryan and Darragh Flannery of Tipperary in last season's U20 hurling final. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Cork's Shane O’Regan with Johnny Ryan and Darragh Flannery of Tipperary in last season's U20 hurling final. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

“This is already in play in football and again it’s trying to decouple teams,” O’Donovan commented.

“It would mean the Cork U20 hurlers could play the same weekend as the seniors and that would overlap much better with a club programme with the whole calendar running in sequence, minor, U20 and senior running parallel.

“If you have an overlap of players, that causes difficulty.

“It’s quite likely anyway that you’d only have one or two U20 players barely needed by the seniors, coming on as subs usually.

We want to free up players for club activity and if there is a brilliant U20 player at senior, then it should free up a place for another U20 player.”

There is also an interesting motion listed that teams can play games with 13 players instead of needing 15 for the second half to complete a fixture.

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