AS welcome as the split-season is, with the clarity that it brings for the silent majority of GAA players, clubs that operate at high levels in hurling and football risk being punished for their success.
Through no fault of their own – or of the county board fixture-planners, who must fit a huge programme into a short timeframe that is squeezed at one end by the inter-county season and at the other by provincial club championships – these clubs are asked to play group games in six weeks out of seven. Then, if they are successful in advancing to the knockout stages, they have to play week on week, though of course momentum can be harnessed from that – in the past decade or so, Kanturk, Éire Óg, Bandon, Valley Rovers and Grenagh have all achieved doubles.
As it happens, there are 12 Cork clubs playing at premier intermediate at higher in both codes and only one of them – Fermoy, senior A in both – managed to win their opening football game, against Bishopstown, and opening hurling game, against Cloyne. St Finbarr’s are also unbeaten, winning in the Premier SFC against Éire Óg and then drawing with Charleville before beating Blackrock in the hurling.
Fermoy, who went on to win their second hurling game too, against Newcestown, giving them three for three so far. had ten players receiving game-time across the two openers. That leaves them tied for fourth place along with Bandon. The Lilywhites are senior A football, losing to Dohenys, and then won their first hurling match against Valley Rovers before losing to Inniscarra last week.
Ahead of that pair are Na Piarsaigh – 12 dual players playing premier senior hurling and premier intermediate football, unfortunately with three defeats so far – and Newcestown and Kanturk.
Last year, Newcestown had the highest number of dual players with 14, two ahead of the Duhallow side, but this time Kanturk are top of the charts, 14 to Newcestown’s 13.
While Kanturk had an excellent RedFM Hurling League Division 1 campaign, finishing second in their section and reaching the semi-finals, and then began the Premier IFC with a resounding victory over Naomh Abán, the 2021 SAHC winners have since suffered hurling losses to Newtownshandrum and Douglas (a game which doubled as the hurling league semi).
As with Kanturk, single-code players are an exotic rarity in Newcestown. Having endured a tough PSFC opener against Nemo Rangers, they bounced back well to beat Mallow in their first SAHC game but the loss to Fermoy means that they will have to beat Cloyne if they are to match and beat last year’s semi-final appearance.
Prior to that, though, a big clash with West Cork rivals Clonakilty lies in store this weekend – while Castlehaven and Nemo Rangers are favourites to emerge from that tough group, winning would ease any fears about being involved in the relegation play-off.
Valley Rovers and Éire Óg are both senior A football and premier intermediate hurling and the two clubs had seven dual players in their first two games. Valleys beat Douglas in football but then lost to Bandon in hurling before bouncing back to beat Youghal. Unfortunately for Éire Óg, a first victory is still elusive – they lost to the Barrs in football, then drew with Watergrasshill in the PIHC and lost out to Carrigaline.
The Barrs and Carrigaline (PSFC, PIHC) have five each and the Togher club have the highest number of dual players among clubs that are premier senior in both – Douglas are the only other outfit to have such status and they had just two dual players, along with Bishopstown (PSHC, SAFC). Mallow, premier senior football and senior A hurling, had four dual players while Ballincollig, who have two dual players in their PSFC and PIHC panels, didn’t have any make an appearance in each of their opening games.
Duals in the Crown – number of players getting game-time in their clubs’ hurling and football openers:
– Na Piarsaigh
– Bandon, Fermoy
– Valley Rovers, Éire Óg
– St Finbarr’s, Carrigaline
– Bishopstown, Douglas