BEARA and Muskerry experienced contrasting fortunes in their recent Bons Secours Cork PSFC clash but the modern-day challenges facing every divisional setup remain unchanged.
The Cork GAA county board’s decision to introduce a round-robin competition solely for divisions was greeted with optimism.
The reality of a crowded fixture list and new split-season format is that some clubs remain reluctant to release their players for divisional matches.
You can understand a club manager’s point of view. It is coming to the end of their league and they need everyone available as that competition acts as a precursor to the county championships.
Yet surely a player can be released to partake in the odd divisional training session or championship match? Playing competitive games at divisional level will only improve a player and increase their match sharpness.
Disappointingly, it appears a reluctance to release club representatives remains an ongoing issue across all the county’s divisions.
An understrength Beara lost their opening Colleges/Divisions unseeded first-round tie to Avondhu but bounced back by overcoming Muskerry. The Western Division had plenty of options off the substitutes bench for their second outing and won 0-16 to 0-10 to qualify for the semi-finals stage.
Contrast that with Muskerry, who had 18 available players for their 2022 Cork PSFC debut. This is a division that came within a goal of ousting UCC last year.
Manager Ger McCarthy is hoping for better fare in Muskerry’s next outing against Imokilly. As far as McCarthy is concerned, there is still a place for Divisions within the club championship structure.
“I would say, yes, there is still a place for divisions in the Cork PSFC,” the Muskerry manager admitted.
“The big question is what format works best for the players involved? Are we running very close to the end of the league? Are we running very close to club championship?
“We are down to face Imokilly on the same night club other games are also scheduled. That is going to mean a clash and, possibly six players who want to play for Muskerry, won’t be able to line out for us.
“To me, there is no reason why the divisional section cannot be brought forward, four maybe five weeks earlier. That is the one thing I would change, just bring it forward a couple of weeks and then bring the games on hot and heavy.”
Kerry native Andrew Fitzgerald is new to the Cork PSFC scene but offers a similar view to his Muskerry counterpart having taken over the Beara footballers.
“One hundred percent there is a place for divisions in Cork’s club championship,” Fitzgerald said.
“From my own experience back home in Kerry, clubs that play in the lower divisions, it is an opportunity for those players to play at the highest level available to them in the county.
“I really think every club player’s aspiration is to play at the highest level possible. That’s why I think divisional sides are so important.”
So, as a newcomer, does the Beara manager believe that the 2022 Cork PSFC Colleges/Divisions format deliver a sufficient number of games to maintain interest levels?
“That’s a difficult one to answer because there are so many club fixtures happening at the moment,” the Beara football manager commented.
“Maybe the timing of the Colleges/Divisions section is slightly off. Saying that, traditionally, going back a number of years ago, these competitions were straight knockout before a losers round was added.
“So, anything better than straight knockout is good, especially for divisional sides where guys aren’t used to playing together. You need that bit of extra time to find a team’s rhythm and get a bit of momentum going.”
Two championship matches in, there isn’t a lot that Andrew Fitzgerald would change about the Colleges/Divisions structure apart from making it easier for players to train with their respective divisions.
“I suppose having a window where players were available to train with their divisional side would be a positive thing,” admitted Fitzgerald.
“Not having guys caught up in the middle of club fixtures would be welcome too. Beara was in a situation last week where five of our starting team from the Garnish club played a championship match the night before we lined out against Avondhu.
“That’s more unfair on the players themselves than anything else. Two guys picked up injuries and couldn’t play for us. Asking guys to play two nights in a row is very unfair on them but those are the current structures in place.”