YOU could almost hear the sigh of relief in places like Glenville, Ballydesmond and Glanmire on hearing news of the stay of execution on relegation from the county intermediate A football championship.
They were three of the four clubs who finished bottom of their groups in the competition’s new format last season and faced the prospect of being dragged into a relegation dogfight.
As it happened the three escaped and it was left to Mayfield to reflect on what might have been after they lost the trap-door decider to nearby Glanmire.
The county board’s original thinking was that four teams would suffer the same fate as Mayfield at the end of this year’s championship and return to play junior in their own divisions.
A recent debate between all interested parties agreed to press the pause button for a year due to the effects of Covid restrictions while an in-depth review of all junior competitions will be undertaken by county board officers.
It makes it a very straightforward championship to run as a result, the top two teams in all four groups of four contest the knock-out stages, quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
What was less clear was who’d fill the relegation places considering there was just one game to determine who slipped out of the grade, when it was all done and dusted.
Glenville found themselves in Group A alongside Millstreet, Ballinora and St Finbarr’s second string and their fate went down to the wire in their concluding game against Millstreet.
Having lost to Muskerry rivals Ballinora by two points, Glenville then found themselves staring down the barrel after losing to the ’Barr’s by four points.
But, they battled courageously to fashion a critical one-point victory over table-toppers Millstreet, a result that still left them bottom of the pile, although with some wriggle room.
While Glenville had a better scoring difference of minus five to the Barrs' minus 15, the city club’s win in the head-to-head meant they avoided finishing last.
Yet, Glenville, with two critical points opposite their name, could relax somewhat, but still left them nervously poring over the other three group outcomes to determine whether their season had ended on a relative high or whether they’d have to play again.
Group B was conclusive in that Ballydesmond lost all three games to Duhallow rivals Rockchapel and Dromtarriffe as well as to Kinsale, propping up the table with a scoring difference of minus 14.
Anxious times for Donncha O’Connor and the lads, who only lost to leaders Rockchapel by a point in their final game with the former Cork star converting a late penalty, which was to prove very, very important.
Ballydesmond still managed to survive because of events in the other two sections.
In Group C, Mayfield finished pointless after defeats to Adrigole by three points, Glanworth by five and Mitchelstown, who headed up the section, by eight.
Those margins were significant because combined it left the city club vulnerable on a minus 16 scoring difference.
Ballydesmond’s fate would now be decided by how Group D unfolded with Glanmire under pressure after losing their opening game to a strong Kilshannig side by 10 points.
They also came a cropper in their second outing against Kildorrery, but only lost by the minimum margin, leaving their final game against Aghabullogue as the decider.
But, an eight-point defeat condemned Glanmire to the relegation match after finishing pointless with a scoring difference of minus 19, leaving Ballydesmond off the hook.
Yet, there was no disputing their superiority against Mayfield, Glanmire winning impressively by 0-14 to 1-5.
Once again the championship showed small margins can often play significant roles in determining games and positions in tables.
For example, if O’Connor hadn’t tucked away his penalty, Ballydesmond would have been left with a minus 17 scoring difference and they would have been involved against Glanmire instead of Mayfield. It was that tight.
The final itself is between Mitchelstown and Rockchapel. Will Mark Keane be around for it?