Things are about to get very busy for Cork County Board vice-chairman Pat Horgan, but he’s looking forward to it.
In Cork, the vice-chair of the executive chairs the competitions control committee (CCC), which is charged with fixture-setting. Midleton native Horgan was elected to his role along with chairman Marc Sheehan in December but of course the early months of the year have seen inactivity.
“It’s a bit of a sprint now, in fairness,” he says, “but I’m sure, after a month or six weeks, things will level out and we’ll get on top of them.
“There’s no doubt that 2021 will be a mirror image of 2020, with the inter-county and the club swapped.”
Things get going at the beginning of June, with the advent of league cup competitions to replace the traditional county leagues.
“When we sat down to look at that, we had three or four different goes at it,” Horgan says.
“It took a fair bit before the penny dropped that we weren’t going to be able to go with any league structure as we knew it.
“One of the first things that we realised was that we were going to have to pause the promotion and relegation as it wasn’t going to be fair.
“The only yardstick that we had was the 2019 finishing positions, so we put them in groups of eight, dividing into A and B, and then, when the championship draws were made, we went back to make sure that we weren’t going to have repeats.
“The ones that we really homed in on were the teams that were in the 2020 county finals, for example Nemo and Castlehaven or Russell Rovers and Castlemartyr. We had to make sure they weren’t going to meet at all, no matter how successful they would be in the league cup.
“The big job, which took an awful lot of time, was that, after the championship draws, every team had to be tagged according to the groups they were in, to make sure they weren’t going to be in the same group.
“With the restricted number of games, people were going to be looking forward to meeting their championship opponents in August, but they didn’t want to be meeting them in June.”
Horgan is grateful that there has been a strong buy-in to the new format.
“The most important thing here is that there’s tremendous goodwill among the clubs,” he says.
“They’ve been so long out that they just want to get up and get at it. With the league cups, we’re going to have 15 different trophies and 15 different sets of prize money. At the moment, we have ten trophies – five divisions each in hurling and football – so I’ve no doubt we’ll find five more!
“As well, I made sure that we got the CCC established, we invited in representatives from the divisions. Long before we had a championship programme, we just wanted to get their views on how they saw the season going and reflecting on how 2020 went.
“We then sat down and made a masterplan but, before we put it to the executive or the clubs, we invited the divisional representatives back in again to get their observations and to see if they were pleased.
“At all times, it has been my intention to bring the divisions with us. That we’re all singing off the same hymnsheet is very important for me.”
In tandem with the league cups is the completion of the outstanding competitions from last year, including the junior B and C competitions, which initially looked set to be abandoned.
“The one thing about the championship is that it falls into two or three different categories,” Horgan says.
“While the inter-county is proceeding, you’re trying to pick off a few 2020 matches and you’re running with your secondary competitions, which is grand.
“Then, when it changes in August, obviously we hope the county teams are successful and it’d be great if they were in All-Ireland final, but we have made provision that we’ll be starting on the All-Ireland hurling weekend with football and starting on the All-Ireland football weekend with hurling.
“That’s provisional and we’ll go hell for leather then for 14 weeks. The quarter-finals of the championships will roughly be the first week of October, which is usually the finals time and that will tell you what the difference in the structure of the championship is.
“The only little adjustments that we had to make were to accommodate the All-Ireland U20 hurling championship from 2020 and we had initially decided that we weren’t going to proceed with the junior B and C championships, but an appeal was made.
“We did have another look at it and we decided to pencil them in and they’ll be beginning in June.”
Horgan’s involvement at board level goes back more than two decades, meaning that he brings a lot of experience to the job and has previously sat on the CCC. In an ever-changing world, within and outwith the GAA, constant evolution is needed.
“I was PRO between 2000 and 2003,” he says.
“When I finished my time with Midleton, I went to the county board as a delegate and I was on the CCC twice, once as PRO and then as senior hurling rep.
“Now that I’m coming in chairing it, it’s something that I’m familiar with. The one thing about it is that it’s changing all the time, so you have to be prepared to go with it and try to effect change.
“I never wanted to get involved if I couldn’t effect change and that’s important.”