A REPEAT of last year’s Co-op Superstores Premier SHC final between Blackrock and Glen Rovers will get this year’s RedFM Hurling League 1A off to a strong start
With the number of available dates for the traditional county leagues restricted due to the compacted inter-county and club championship schedules as a result of Covid-19, Cork County Board has taken the decision to run special one-off league cup competitions, with each eight-team section split into two groups of four. In each section, the group A winners will meet the group B runners-up in semi-finals with the group B winners playing the group A runners-up.
In football, there are six ‘full’ sections and a five-team section 7, while there are seven eight-team sections in hurling and a six-team section 8, split in two. Provisions have been so that teams who are set to meet in the 2021 championships – or who have outstanding fixtures against each other from 2020 – are kept apart.
Traditionally, the four county senior hurling and football semi-finalists have been seeded and this is the case again, meaning that the Rockies and the Glen can meet and they will clash on Saturday, June 12 at Church Road with a 6pm throw-in. The other two teams in 1A are Sarsfields and Newcestown, who play each other in Riverstown on Tuesday, June 15 with a 7.30pm throw-in.
Each section is based upon the finishing positions in the 2019 league, with the results of the 2020 leagues, which had barely begun before the impact of the pandemic began to hit, considered null and void.
“When we sat down to look at that, we had three or four different goes at it,” county board vice-chairman Pat Horgan told recently.
“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.
“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.”
Section 1B is composed of St Finbarr’s, Bride Rovers, Bishopstown and Midleton, while Killeagh, Douglas, Ballymartle and Kanturk will play off in 2A. The four teams in 2B are Newtownshandrum, Erin’s Own – semi-finalists last year – Na Piarsaigh and Ballyhea while 3A will see Ballinhassig, Mallow, Carrigtwohill and Cloyne do battle. In 3B, there is a strong red and white feel as Kilworth, Courcey Rovers and last year’s senior A champions Charleville are all present, with extra colour provided by the green and red of Fr O’Neills.
Bandon, Youghal, Watergrasshill and Ballincollig are all in section 4A, with Fermoy, Carrigaline, Castlelyons and Mayfield in 4B. Carrigtwohill rivals Valley Rovers, Tracton, Blarney and Meelin make up section 5A, with North Cork sides Milford and Kildorrery joined by Dungourney and Inniscarra in 5B.
Section 6A sees Éire Óg – currently waiting to face Aghabullogue in the IAHC final – take on Blackrock’s second team, Kilbrittain and Aghada, while Argideen Rangers, St Catherine’s, Dripsey and Na Piarsaigh comprise 6B. Midleton’s second side, Ballygarvan, Russell Rovers – who are waiting to face East Cork rivals Castlemartyr in the lower IHC decdier – and Grenagh are in 7A. Three city second teams – Glen Rovers, St Finbarr’s and Douglas – are joined by Aghabullogue in 7B.
The two three-team groups in section 8 are made up of Sarsfields, Cloughduv and Castlemartyr in 8A, while, fittingly, all the Bs, Ballymartle, Ballinhassig and Barryroe, are in the other group.
Group winners shall have home advantage in the semi-finals, with finals played at neutral venues. Winning clubs are to awarded €750, while runners-up will receive €450. However, these competitions won’t have any material effect on the leagues going forward as it was felt that any system of relegation imposed would be unfair on teams not given enough of an opportunity to preserve their status. As a result, when the county leagues revert to the usual format for 2022, it will be a continuation of the 2019 competitions.