THE Bon Secours Cork PSFC Division/Colleges preliminary section has delivered plenty of exciting football and two quality finalists in Avondhu and Carbery.
The two Divisions will battle it out to see who progresses to the latter stages of a competition involving MTU Cork, UCC and Duhallow on Thursday evening.
Whoever emerges from that quartet will advance to the Cork PSFC quarter-finals.
So, there is plenty to play for and Carbery showed they are up for the challenge by coming through a tough test against Beara. Avondhu did likewise, digging deep to see off a resurgent Imokilly.
Anyone complaining about Divisions or Colleges involvement in the top tier of Cork club football would have been impressed with last Thursday night’s offerings.
Bantry Blues GAA grounds provided a picturesque backdrop and fine playing surface as two neighbouring divisions played out an engaging knockout tie.
Beara and Carbery certainly delivered as did Avondhu versus Imokilly on the same night.
A healthy attendance in Bantry underlined the value of running off the early rounds of the Divisions/Colleges section by utilising midweek fixtures.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing however as Muskerry’s decision to hand Imokilly a walkover before the latter subsequently lost to Avondhu.
The former’s frustrations with some of the clubs within their Division not releasing players left Muskerry with no choice but to pull out.
To be fair, each of the Divisions involved in this year’s competition felt the same sting of club player commitments during the opening rounds.
The issue is not going away anytime soon either.
On one side of the argument, club managers have a squeezed fixture-list of county league games and short run-in to their respective championships.
They don’t want to incur any additional injuries by allowing players to line out for their Divisions.
A crowded fixtures calendar means most Division’s players don’t have the time to meet up and train let alone commit to playing in the Divisions/Colleges section.
Yet, the counter-argument is a valid one. Surely, any player, irrespective of their grade would relish the opportunity to test themselves at the highest Premier Senior grade?
The boost Avondhu and Carbery Division players have received in winning a couple of competitive games is palpable.
Getting the chance to go up against the likes of MTU Cork or UCC and possibly qualify for the quarter-finals of the Cork PSFC is surely worth turning up for?
Kerry native Andrew Fitzgerald took over the Beara footballers earlier this year.
Having lost to Avondhu in their opening match, Fitzgerald’s side bounced back to see off Muskerry before falling to Carbery in the preliminary section’s penultimate round.
Fitzgerald sees the benefit of players pushing themselves at a higher Divisions/Colleges grade and firmly believes the experience benefits players and their respective clubs.
Experiencing the crowded nature of Cork’s club fixture-list has been an eye-opener for the Kerry man but Fitzgerald firmly believes Beara divisional football has a future.
“Losing Garnish’s Sean Terry O’Sullivan to injury robbed us of one of our main scoring forward (against Carbery),” Fitzgerald said.
“We never took the lead and, if we had, maybe it might have changed their shape a little bit.
“I suppose the big thing for Beara, this year, is that we have put a foundation in place for the players. Beara footballers now know that there is a platform there for them to play at the highest level.
“Nights like tonight, a beautiful evening and big crowd, what player in Beara wouldn’t want to play at this level is the question. I think players realise what an opportunity they have now.” Carbery manager Tim Buckley feels the same way about his West Cork Division. Getting organised early, both on and off the pitch, plus an open line of communication to club managers has benefitted Carbery.
“From the Divisions point of view, the championship is a much slower burn. It takes a bit longer to get off the ground,” Buckley recently commented.
“What’s been catching Divisions all along is that if you didn’t get organised and lose your first game then it was over a year before you got a chance to rectify that again.
“Speaking as a Gaelic football man, I think Cork GAA is better served the more quality teams we have. By having this new process amongst the Divisions, you are giving every team a number of games where they can develop and their level of performance goes up. What all that does is deliver a quality divisional or colleges team into the Cork PSFC.”