THERE will be less than a handful of repeat games from 2020 following the draw for the second installment of county senior ‘A’ football championship.
Last season’s maiden voyage carried seven teams, who had played in the top grade the year before, and five more from premier intermediate level.
And it proved to be a very competitive championship with plenty of closely fought games and the rankings made little difference to the outcome.
Four teams, Bandon, Ballingeary, St Michael’s and Fermoy, all improved their standings from 12 months ago while Dohenys and Kiskeam slipped down the pecking order.
The picture is somewhat clouded because two of the three groups won’t be finalised until after the completion of the championship itself as well as the premier intermediate competition.
Mallow and Éire Óg, who were in the same section in 2020, must play their final to determine who moves up to premier senior or who stays in the second flight.
Group C contains Fermoy, Clyda Rovers and Bantry Blues and they will be joined by the loser of the Mallow-Eire Og tie.
Both played Bantry last term with Mallow winning by 2-11 to 1-10 in their concluding game to finish on four points along with the Ovens club and Kiskeam.
Éire Óg kicked off their championship with a 0-13 to 0-7 victory over Bantry before losing to Mallow next time out. They overcame Kiskeam by 2-13 to 1-10 in their final game.
The north Cork side topped the group by having the best scoring difference of +8, three better than Éire Óg with Kiskeam squeezed out.
Group B is the other section to be completed after Knocknagree play Kanturk in the premier intermediate final with the winners shooting up a grade and the losers staying put.
The victors will join Bishopstown, St Michael’s and Kiskeam in the group.
Bishopstown were relegated from premier senior last season, their first time out of the top tier since 1975 following their intermediate success against Newcestown the year before.
The city club reached two finals, in 2002, where they lost to Nemo Rangers by 0-15 to 1-7 and two years later against Carbery, who won by 1-11 to 0-7.
The Town open against city rivals St Michael’s in what looks like being a very tough section regardless of who emerges from the Knocknagree-Kanturk decider.
In Group A, O’Donovan Rossa are the only surviving number one seed from last season to retain their status and they will renew rivalry with Ballingeary in their first game.
The Skibbereen club won by 0-17 to 1-10, en route to winning all three games and qualifying for the semi-finals, where they lost to Éire Óg by 2-10 to 1-8.
This season, Rossas will have Bandon and Dohenys for company.
Bandon were seeded two, having been fourth seeds the previous season, while Dohenys slid from top to bottom in the rankings despite only losing one game.
But, the Dunmanway club didn’t win a game either as they drew with Bandon and Clyda to finish bottom of the pile on two points.
Dohenys, though, weren’t dragged into the relegation play-off and in a reflection of just competitive that section was only two points separated first and last.
Fermoy won the group with four points, just one ahead of Bandon and Clyda with Dohenys another point behind.
The relegation decider ended being a city-west Cork affair, but it proved a very one-sided encounter as St Nick’s were no match for Bantry, who won by 3-15 to 0-2.
Picking a winner of the three sections is fraught with all sorts of problems, suffice to say it promises to be another intriguing championship.
The pairings are:
R1: O’Donovan Rossa v Bandon; Ballingeary v Dohenys.
R2: O’Donovan Rossa v Dohenys; Bandon v Ballingeary.
R3: O’Donovan Rossa v Ballingeary; Bandon v Dohenys.
R1: Bishopstown v St Michael’s; Kiskeam v Knocknagree or Kanturk.
R2: Bishopstown v Knocknagree or Kanturk; St Michael’s v Kiskeam.
R 3: Bishopstown v Kiskeam; St Michael’s v Knocknagree or Kanturk.
R1: Fermoy v Mallow or Éire Óg; Clyda Rovers v Bantry Blues.
R2: Fermoy v Bantry Blues; Mallow or Éire Óg v Clyda Rovers.
R3: Fermoy v Clyda Rovers; Mallow or Éire Óg v Bantry Blues.