Cork clubs gear up for a new-look league season

The 2022 leagues begin in less than three weeks with much to play for across all the divisions
Cork clubs gear up for a new-look league season

Marc Sheehan presents the Kelleher Shield to St Finbarr's captain Ian Maguire, after they defeated Cill na Martra in the 2019 Rochestown Park Hotel Division 1 football league final, at Pairc Ui Rinn.

IF the extraordinary events of the weekend don’t energise players ahead of the new season then there’s something amiss.

Ballygunner’s annexation of the All-Ireland club hurling title with a winning goal in the closing play will go down in the annals, especially against an outfit like Ballyhale Shamrocks.

And they said it couldn’t be bettered until Kilcoo, in football, did much the same thing against Kilmacud Crokes, who restricted the Down and Ulster champions to a miserly two points in the first-half.

They were still in control in the second until Kilcoo forced extra-time and even then the Dublin and Leinster standard-bearers were the better side until they were mugged at the death.

For the watching St Finbarr’s players and management there must have been ‘that could have been us’ feel about it after they extended Kilcoo into extra-time as well in the semi-final.

Now the clubs are gearing up for the start of the 2022 season in less than three weeks with the opening games in the Cork Credit Union Leagues.

The county board have restructured the leagues to have them aligned more appropriately with the new championship programme, which starts at the end of July.

It was decided fewer league games would accrue because clubs are now guaranteed a minimum of three championship matches.

And also factored in was the split-season’s tighter time-frame making every weekend valuable hence a target of nine league games for all clubs.

That’s not to ignore the attraction of the Tom Creedon Cup either, organised by Macroom, and that’s expected to take place over hurling weekends if the demand is there.

The divisions are therefore split into Groups 1A and 1B, 2A and 2B, and 3A and 3B as well as 3C for this season only.

League positions from 2019 and their current championship status were the criteria used in determining the various groups.

The importance of the leagues starting next month is that they will form another new-look league season in 2023, when there will be six divisions.

The top five teams in 1A and 1B will form division 1 and the bottom five teams will make up division 2.

Division 3 will have the top five teams from 2A and 2B with the bottom five comprising division 4.

Division 5 will have the leading five teams from 3A and 3B with division 6 containing the remaining teams along with a number of junior A sides.

In each case the promoted and relegated teams will replace their relevant counterparts.

For example, the division 2 finalists will be promoted and the clubs finishing last in 1A and 1B will be relegated.

The league play-offs will involve cross-over games featuring the winner of one group meeting the runner-up from the other section with the winners enjoying home advantage.

There’s an exception in division 3, where the best second placed team joins the three group winners in the semi-finals.

All league finals are set for neutral venues.

The opening round of games invariably involves teams meeting later in the summer at the start of the championship though those with Cork players must soldier on without them.

The ‘Barr’s, the defending county champions, pop out the road to play Eire Og in a repeat of their championship quarter-final from last season, when the likes of Ian Maguire, Steven Sherlock, Sam Ryan, Colm O’Callaghan, John Cooper and Chris Kelly will be absentees.

FIXTURES: MARCH 6: Credit Union Leagues Division 1 Group A: Ballincollig v Mallow, Ballincollig; Castlehaven v Newcestown, Union Hall; Eire Og v St Finbarr’s; Kiskeam v Ballingeary; St Michael’s v Fermoy, Mahon.

Group B: Carbery Rangers v Carrigaline, Rosscarbery; Douglas v Valley Rovers, Douglas; Ilen Rovers v Clyda Rovers; Nemo Rangers v Clonakilty, Trabeg; O’Donovan Rossa v Cill na Martra, Skibbereen.

Division 2 Group A: Bandon v Dohenys, Bandon; Bantry Blues v Glanworth, Wolfe Tone Park; Macroom v Rockchapel, Macroom; Nemo Rangers v St Vincent’s, Trabeg, Newmarket v Ballydesmond, Newmarket.

Group B: Aghabullogue v Dromtarriffe, Coachford; Aghada v Na Piarsaigh, Rostellan; Kanturk v Naomh Aban, Kanturk; Knocknagree v Bishopstown, Knocknagree; Mitchelstown v Castletownbere, Mitchelstown.

March 20: Division 3 Group A: Kildorrery v Adrigole, Kildorrery; Kilshannig v Gabriel Rangers, Kilshannig; Kinsale v Glanmire, Kinsale.

Group B: Glenville v St Nick’s, Glenville; Millstreet v Boherbue, Millstreet; St Finbarr’s v Ballinora, Togher.

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