THE yet-to-be-determined champion clubs of Cork football will be playing up to Christmas week following the recent draws for the Munster Club Championships.
There was good news for those sides representing the county in senior and intermediate because they’ve been handed byes to the semi-final stages and also have avoided the Kerry champions.
The junior champions, though, don’t have any such luxuries because they will be straight into the thick of the competitive provincial arena immediately, travelling to the Banner County to take on the Clare champions.
And the ‘reward’ for the winners is a semi-final against the Kingdom representatives, who normally dominate not only Munster, but the All-Ireland, too.
The draws for the senior championship resulted in first-round games between the winners in Clare and Tipperary and Limerick and Waterford on the weekend of December 4-5.
The Cork champions take on either Clare or Tipperary in one semi-final on the weekend of December 18-19 with the Kerry representatives meeting Limerick or Waterford the same weekend.
Those clubs who qualify for Munster finals will be able to tuck into the turkey on Christmas Day as all the deciders are pencilled in for the weekend of January 15-16.
The All-Ireland club semi-finals and finals will follow in subsequent weeks in time for the start of the new inter-county season in whatever shape and content that will be.
It’s the usual suspects, according to the bookies, to left the Andy Scannell Cup, defended, once again, by Nemo Rangers, who are 15/8 to retain their title.
And this despite the fact that the Trabeg club still haven’t confirmed their place in the knock-out phase following their opening group game defeat by Valley Rovers.
But, a subsequent big win over Carrigaline means Nemo just need to defeat neighbours Douglas in their last game, on Sunday week, in the section to be guaranteed a quarter-final slot.
Last season’s runners-up, Castlehaven, are second favourites at 3/1 and they’ve booked their play-off slot with a game to spare against relegation-threatened Carbery Rangers.
St Finbarr’s are the third fancies at 9/2 and like the Haven, the Togher club are also through to the knock-out phase along with Clonakilty.
The pair square-up in the last group game with the possibility of the lone semi-final berth up for grabs, though the Haven have designs on that prize, too, like last season, when they clinched it with a late scoring blitz.
Duhallow complete the top four in the betting at 5/1 though they can’t obviously represent Cork in Munster and if they do go on to win the title, then the beaten finalists would have the dubious joy of competing in the provincial competition.
Cork will be represented by the winners of the premier intermediate championship in the Munster intermediate grade, taking on the representatives from either Clare or Limerick on December 18/19.
The bookies believe there’s a two-horse race for the title on Leeside with Cill na Martra the 6/4 favourites followed by Kanturk at 2/1.
Cill na Martra, who have posted 3-35 in their two group games so far, have designs on claiming the semi-final place, holding a bigger scoring difference advantage over Kanturk while the draw between Aghada and Castletownbere has probably scuttled their chances of a direct last-four spot.
Last season Cill na Martra and Kanturk collided in the semi-final with the Duhallow club squeezing through by the minimum margin before losing to Knocknagree.
Kanturk are juggling with hurling as well whereas the Gaeltacht club are football-only and carry an advantage in that respect.
Yet, it’s the eventual junior champions who will probably shoulder the heaviest fixture-load of the lot.
Not only is it a major ask to win the divisional title, but then there are three hurdles to negotiate in the county stage before there’s any talk of Munster.
Divisions have until the end of the month to complete the championship. They received praise from county CEO/Sec, Kevin O’Donovan, at the monthly board meeting during the week.
“I know they are working incredibly hard to meet this deadline, but we have no wriggle room,” he said.
Dual clubs could have problems, like Bride Rovers, for example, who are in the Imokilly junior final and have qualified in senior A hurling, too.