Kevin O'Donovan: Revamp of junior grade is needed to benefit Cork GAA clubs

"For teams being relegated from intermediate to junior, whereby it is a complete lottery as to what format or programme of games they will face, depending on their geographical location."
Kevin O'Donovan: Revamp of junior grade is needed to benefit Cork GAA clubs

Cork County Board secretary/CEO Kevin O'Donovan in his office at Páirc Uí Chaoimh during the remotely-held annual convention. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

CORK County Board secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan believes that the change in county championship format at senior and intermediate levels has been a success, but he feels that a revamp of the junior grades is urgently needed.

In his report to Saturday night’s annual convention, O’Donovan wrote: “It is now obvious that after two seasons of the revamped championship format that the decision of the clubs to embrace change is bearing fruit.

“A group-stage format, reduced numbers in championships, the reintroduction of relegation and a clearly defined calendar have all led to more competitive championships at senior and intermediate level.”

However, with regard to the lower intermediate hurling grade, which will cease at the end of next year, he made the point that there is a lack of consistency with the various divisional championships.

“When considering relegation from any grade it must be considered as to whether there is appropriate competition at the grade to which teams are being relegated,” he wrote.

“It is safe to say at this stage for example that if a team is relegated from senior to intermediate (while still retaining their league status, of course) they are well catered for as their new grade represents the same essential format.

“The same cannot be said for teams being relegated from intermediate to junior, whereby it is a complete lottery as to what format or programme of games they will face, depending on their geographical location. Hence, only one conclusion can be drawn. The relegation of teams from intermediate to junior must be contingent on the immediate reform of junior championships.

The current county junior football competition, for example, where one quarter-finalist must emerge from over 20 teams in their division, while their prospective opponent may have received a bye to the same stage is hardly fit-for-purpose.

“The first and easiest place to start, of course, in the reform of any GAA competitions is leagues. It is urgent therefore that a return to the regional leagues of a decade ago be implemented with a clear link between the senior and intermediate leagues and their junior equivalents. 

"Four regions for leagues with the respective divisional boards organising, for example, Avondhu/Duhallow leagues, would give more meaningful games and allow for even groups of eight teams each. 

"If this is not possible, then it will be necessary to re-introduce open junior county leagues which would run in parallel with the senior and intermediate programme and include promotion and relegation to and from same.”

CONDENSED

O’Donovan also feels that the current league system may need refinement.

“The county senior and intermediate leagues from Division 1-5 require some modification,” he wrote.

“With at least three championship games now guaranteed for all teams, it will be necessary to trim the number of league games annually.

“All league groups should have a maximum of 10 teams with nine league games annually. Single-code clubs could be provided with extra games through Tom Creedon Cup or a hurling equivalent such as the Liam Breathnach.”

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