Details of the Cork hurlers and footballers' 2021 fixture programme

Leagues will start in May, with Munster championship from late June
Details of the Cork hurlers and footballers' 2021 fixture programme

Mark Coleman of Cork in action against Jamie Barron and Austin Gleeson of Waterford last season. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A KNOCKOUT championship for the Cork footballers and a backdoor option for the hurlers.

The inter-county GAA scene in 2021 will mirror the Covid-rocked 2020 version, though thankfully it'll take place across the summer.

The Association confirmed today the championships will commence in late June, after the Allianz Leagues, which gives all counties a guaranteed slate of matches, even without qualifiers in the football.

Cork stunned Kerry with the latest of extra-time goals from Mark Keane in last season's Munster football semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and if the counties collide in the coming months it'll be at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, against a highly-motivated Kingdom.

Ian Maguire of Cork is tackled by Brian Ó Beaglaíoch of Kerry. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ian Maguire of Cork is tackled by Brian Ó Beaglaíoch of Kerry. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Kieran Kingston's hurlers were beaten as favourites in last year's provincial opener against Waterford. While they impressed in beating Dublin in the backdoor, they left a game they could have won behind them in exiting at the hands of Tipp, albeit in biblical rain and wind that reduced the contest to a lottery.

They'll need a change of luck, though having a league to prepare will be of great benefit. The Cork club championships ran right into their build-up in 2020.

The All-Irelands will be held on August 22 and 29 and the Munster finals are July 18 and 25, hurling followed by football. The provincial draws take place the week after next.

In the league section, the hurling is on traditional lines, with groups of six, but no knockout phase, beginning on May 8/9. Cork are in Division 1A, with Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Tipp and Westmeath. Five games to gear up for the provincial arena.

The football leagues have been regionalised. Cork are in Division 2 South, with Clare, Laois and Kildare.

They must forfeit one home game due to a training breach during the winter, which also saw manager Ronan McCarthy suspended and ruled out of all activity for 12 weeks, until mid-May.

If Cork are in the top two they progress to the semi-finals against one from the Mayo, Meath, Down and Westmeath Division 2 North section. There will be league finals on June 19 and 20 but only if the counties aren't in the following week's provincial openers. If that is the case, the teams will be deemed joint winners as both are promoted anyway.

The bottom two teams in each divisional group in Division 1, 2 and 3 will go into relegation playoffs with the losers dropping down for 2022.

There is no update yet on the minors and U20s, with matches outstanding from 2020 including the U20 hurling All-Ireland where Cork face Galway or Dublin.

As the GAA explained, their new plans "guarantee a minimum of five games for each senior county football and hurling team, while all bar three counties are guaranteed six games in hurling." 

Their objective was "balance", ensuring sufficient games at inter-county league and championship and facilitating the club window by completing inter-county competitions by the end of August. 

The original programme announced last December ran across 27, whereas now it's truncated to 20, hence the no-nonsense championship format.

CORK HURLERS:

Five league games v Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford, Galway, Westmeath

Munster championship from late June, with a backdoor option

CORK FOOTBALLERS:

Three league games v Clare, Kildare and Laoise, plus a relegation or promotion play-off against one of Mayo, Meath, Down or Westmeath.

Munster championship from late June, straight knockout.

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