The Paudie Palmer column: Cork football leagues should expand to include junior clubs

Overhaul of the current structure would increase competitiveness across all levels
The Paudie Palmer column: Cork football leagues should expand to include junior clubs

Joe Neill, Castletownbere, bursting past Karl Daly of Knocknagree in the Rochestown Park Hotel Division 4 football league final at Ballingeary. Picture: Dan Linehan

WITH Paddy’s Day disappearing in the rearview window, I honestly find it hard to comprehend that the view of the pandemic exit gate is if anything getting cloudier.

At the weekend, while in conversation with an individual who is definitely sipping from the glass more than half empty in relation to the challenges posed by our unwelcome virus, she remarked: “It’s one disaster after another.”

I just thought it was simply one disaster full stop. Her view is based on, one step forward and then two back.

The 2020 methods of getting the numbers down appear to be somewhat overwhelmed by the arrival of the new variants.

The news last week that the five-day moving average was heading north again was particularly disappointing. Then the vaccine saga as challenging and all as it was, took another nose dive with the Norwegians pointing to side effects, which caused our rollout to stall.

Undoubtedly, it just doesn’t feel right at this moment in time to be harbouring notions of our manicured pitches experiencing the feel of studded footwear.

Nothing for it, only to enter suggestion mode as to how things could be a little better when we eventually return.

Obviously, it would be remiss of us, not to acknowledge the huge steps that have been made both at national and local level which hopefully will yield positive dividends for all our players.

The split season is the big one but what about nearer home.

Last season the championship format developed by the Cork County Board executive is now viewed by many all over the country as being the ultimate in best practice.

So what more can they do?

The GAA’s relationship with its league competitions has quite often been rather low key and certainly, that would appear to be the case in this county.

For the purposes of these few words, we will mention the county football leagues. I am sure similar arguments can be made in relation to the hurling ones.


Not wishing to bring the Kerry angle into focus, but it is worth noting that back in the mid-’70s Dr Jim Brosnan who was county board chairman at the time introduced what was then termed the all-county football leagues.

They have stood the test of time.

Of course, the Cork scenario is all so different from the situation over the border both in relation to the number of clubs and the dual nature of many of the rebel units.

On the red side of the border, there are, give or take, 140 clubs and we will make a presumption that the majority of them have a least one adult football team and no doubt, there are a large number of them capable of fielding two or possibly three teams.

At the moment the County Board organises a county league made up of five divisions from Divisions 1 down.

There are 16 teams in Division 1 with 12 teams in Division 2 and Division 4, while there are 11 teams in the remaining two divisions. There is obviously some reason that I don’t understand as to why there is not the same number of teams in each. Anyway, the total number of teams involved is 62.

Kevin O'Sullivan of Ilen Rovers scoring a goal against Douglas in the Rochestown Park Hotel Cork Division 3 FL final in Clonakilty. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Kevin O'Sullivan of Ilen Rovers scoring a goal against Douglas in the Rochestown Park Hotel Cork Division 3 FL final in Clonakilty. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The remaining number of teams which could be anywhere around 100 play in the various divisional leagues.

You might ask, what’s the problem?

Promotion and relegation do apply in the five county board leagues except what happens when a team is relegated from Division 5; it is replaced by the team which wins the county junior football championship.

I would argue that this is wrong and that leagues should be separate from championships.

Now, what would I like to see put in place? 

Firstly, let’s us begin by stating, that the leadership demonstrated by the county executive over the past while where they introduced a revamped county championship, merged a number of groups together to form One Cork and overhauled the county board draw would indicate they are well capable of improving the leagues.

I would like to see a league structure completely separate from championship. All adult football teams should feature, including those from the divisional junior championships. A promotional pathway from the very bottom right up to Division 1 should be put in place.

As is the case presently, you could have a number of divisions that would be all county but for the junior teams, they could play in four regional leagues if that was more suitable.

The organisation of these so-called regional leagues could come under the remit of divisional board officers and in terms of the regions, you might have to avail of the soft border phenomenon.

When the regional leagues are completed the top teams would take part in a separate competition to decide on one or two teams that would be promoted to Division 5 of the all-county league.

I am not for one minute underestimating the task involved here but it can be done with the right people driving it, in terms of organisation and promotion.

Here the sponsor would be a lot more than a revenue stream and I would envisage a strong working relationship between the respective PR departments of both the County Board and the sponsor.

I notice that the Cork Credit Unions are now on board in this regard and I would be more than surprised if they disagreed with any of the above.

For those of you who work in the world of success indicators, how will this scribe view the success or otherwise of what we would like to see happening: For start, the regular production of league tables on various social media platforms and on the various print media.

At a glance, you should be able to see the league position of every adult football team in the county.

Quite honestly, I think such an eventuality is very possible and the value of same can’t be overstated. I look forward to same.

Contact: Twitter: @paudiep

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