Cork will still run divisions and colleges in Premier Senior grade despite new GAA limit of 16 teams

All 38 motions were passed at Congress, including a black card in hurling and new dates for schools competitions
Cork will still run divisions and colleges in Premier Senior grade despite new GAA limit of 16 teams

Imokilly's John Cronin battles UCC's Neil Montgomery in the Premier Senior Hurling Divisional-College final last season. Picture: Howard Crowdy

THE first virtual GAA Congress, where Bishopstown native and New York GAA representative Larry McCarthy was officially introduced as the new president of the Association, saw a number of major calls made.

All 38 motions passed, with 10 on the structure of the All-Ireland football series deferred to a Special Congress later this year when they can be debated in person.

Here are the key decisions that were taken...

LIMIT OF 16 TEAMS IN CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Cork had already moved towards a streamlined club championship in 2020 and will make further strides this season after which the majority of the lower hurling intermediate sides will drop back to junior and intermediate football will be trimmed as well.

It will leave 12 club teams at Premier Senior, 12 at Senior A, 12 at Premier Intermediate and 12 at Intermediate, with the rest in the junior ranks.

This motion comes in for the 2023 campaign to give counties time to adapt. If applied as stated, that just 16 'teams' are permitted in the Premier Senior grade, it potentially puts a squeeze on UCC, CIT and the divisions.

However, the Cork County Board backed this development at Congress on the basis that they won't have to axe some club teams from the top tier. Instead, they'll be allowed to operate a separate divisional/colleges section alongside the three groups of four for the clubs.

Nemo Rangers' Alan O'Donovan wins the ball from Duhallow's Kevin Crowley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Nemo Rangers' Alan O'Donovan wins the ball from Duhallow's Kevin Crowley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Imokilly were three-in-a-row hurling champions up to 2019 and Duhallow are regulars in the latter stages of the football championship. Going forward, as per last season, the clubs and representative teams will collide at the quarter-final stage. 

Though not without its critics, the divisional model has served Cork GAA well. 

Some counties, like Galway and Tipperary, will have to cull clubs at the top level, while Kerry football is built around divisions but they have fewer clubs at senior.

HURLING BLACK CARD:

Despite a similar proposal being shot down last year, the most high-profile motion was passed with 61% support, including Cork's.

The key detail is that "if a player with a goal-scoring opportunity either inside the 20-metre line or the semi-circular arc that extends from the 20 metre line is pulled down, tripped, or struck with a hurley in a careless manner then a penalty shall be awarded and the offender will be yellow-carded and sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes."

What wasn't especially well highlighted before Congress was that it also applies to football.

If the foul is a second caution or merits a red card regardless, the guilty party will be sent off, as is the case currently with the football black card.

The bottom line is that defenders will be deterred from blatant fouls inside the D and goal chances will be increased.

Granted, in the dying minutes of the game players might still sacrifice themselves to prevent a green flag but that's the case in most sports.

 Mark McCarthy, Aghada, fouls DJ Twomey, Courcey Rovers, in last year's Co-Op Superstores Cork PIHC at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Larry Cummins
Mark McCarthy, Aghada, fouls DJ Twomey, Courcey Rovers, in last year's Co-Op Superstores Cork PIHC at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Larry Cummins

SPLIT SEASON:

The All-Ireland finals are now going to take place in July. That's quite a shift from the traditional September slot but frees up a chunk of the year for the club game.

Counties will be able to run their leagues from spring into the summer without inter-county players and then prioritise championship from August.

There is an argument that the GAA is losing a few key weeks when they dominate the media agenda before the Premier League and European rugby seasons get going, but not a strong enough one to push against a split-season.

LUCKY 13: 

Teams will now be allowed to start the second half of games with 13 players, excluding those carded. Previously you could begin a match with 13 but required 15 for the second half or the game would be forfeited. That often led to mentors being named on the team list and then standing in at corner-forward when the ball was thrown in before trotting off.

SLÁN LEAT TO THE MAOR FOIRNE:

The team official or 'assistant' to the bainisteoir who was previously allowed onto the field to communicate with players can no longer do so. This decision comes in the wake of a number of incidents when mentors clashed with players on the field or stepped in to distract the opposition keeper on restarts.

SECOND- AND THIRD-LEVEL: 

While these competitions were wiped out by Covid this season, they'll now be run off in a shorter time-frame. The Post Primary Schools All-Ireland Championships must be completed by the weekend following St Patrick’s Day, the Sigerson Cup final must take place by the seventh Sunday of the year and the Fitzgibbon Cup a week later.

This will bring forward the schedules for the Harty Cup, Corn Uí Mhuirí and so on.

U20 HURLING: 

All-Ireland semi-finals are now gone, with the Munster and Leinster winners straight through to the final. Cork are currently waiting on Galway or Dublin so the 2020 version can be finished.

Hurlers who feature at senior championship level are now ineligible.

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN:

Joint-captains are no longer be allowed to accept a trophy on behalf of their team. It never seemed like an issue to the average GAA fan, would from here on only one captain can collect the cup.

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