Good byes? Breaking down the Cork GAA County Championship data

As Denis Hurley reveals, only four of the nine hurling teams receiving quarter-final byes in Cork then made it to the final
Good byes? Breaking down the Cork GAA County Championship data

Robbie Cotter of Blackrock in action against Colm Coakley of Erin's Own in the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC semi-final - Erin's Own were top seeds and had a quarter-final bye but lost to the Rockies. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Sunday’s Bons Secours Hospital Premier SFC and SAFC final wins for Nemo Rangers and St Michael’s respectively brought the curtain down on the county senior and intermediate championships for the year.

Across hurling and football, there were nine centrally-run competitions when the Co-op SuperStores Premier JHC (previously known as the Lower IHC) is taken into account, with 2022 being the third year of the new format where a group section leads to the knockout stages.

Where previously the only seeding in championship draws would be the keeping apart of the four senior semi-finalists from the year before, now we have a situation where the group results determine the match-ups that will follow. As a result, that allows us to examine to what extent the seedings hold up when the knockout football and hurling kicks in – and whether the semi-final byes are actually an advantage.

Those byes are given to the number 1 seeds at premier senior and the top two seeds in the others (excluding the 16-team IAFC), allowing them to bypass the quarter-final stage but resulting in a four-week lay-off before playing a team that has picked up a win in the intervening fortnight.

In hurling, there were nine such teams. At premier senior level, Erin’s Own were the top seeds but they were beaten in the semi-final by Blackrock. In the SAHC, eventual winners Fr O’Neills and Fermoy took the automatic spots in the last four with a 50 percent success rate, Fermoy losing out to Courcey Rovers.

The semi-final qualifiers in the third tier, the Premier IHC, were Castlelyons – beaten finalists of 2020 and 2021 – and Inniscarra. Castlelyons fell to Castlemartyr, who then lost out to Scarra after a replay in the final.

Cloughduv and Sarsfields took the direct route in the IAHC – Cloughduv overcame Lisgoold after extra time while Sars lost to Dungourney, who then overcame Cloughduv in the final, reversing the outcome of the group game between the sides.

Similarly, in the Premier JHC, there was a one-in-two strike-rate. Kilbrittain received a bye after three group-stage wins but then lost out to Tracton after extra time in the semi-finals, while Ballygiblin, the other qualifiers, beat Russell Rovers, also requiring 80 minutes to do so.

REPEAT

All told, of the nine teams skipping the quarter-finals, only four were successful, meaning there was none final contested by the first and second seeds – in fact, three of the deciders (Premier SHC, SAHC and IAHC) featured repeat pairings.

The Premier SHC was won by St Finbarr’s and the Premier JHC by Ballygiblin, who were second seeds after the groups; O’Neills and Inniscarra were number 1 seeds in the SAHC and Premier IHC respectively. Dungourney were unique in coming from outside the top two – perhaps not surprising as to win the title in such a way means you are likely to have to beat both, as they did.

The way the results panned out seems to offering a dual-pronged conclusion: if you get a bye, you may not reach the final but if you do manage to do so, you've a strong chance of winning it.

In football, the quarter-finals did seem to be more of a reward. Of the five sides receiving them – St Finbarr’s in PSFC, St Michael’s and Clyda Rovers in SAFC and Kanturk and Bantry Blues in PIFC – only Clyda were beaten in the semi-finals.

That meant that both the PSFC and PIFC had deciders between the top two seeds as Nemo made it through to face (and then beat) the Barrs, while Kanturk lived up to their number 1 billing in overcoming Bantry last Sunday week.

Clyda’s defeat to Knocknagree in the SAFC made that the only football grade with a final that was a repeat fixture but Michael’s ensured that the earlier result was repeated as they finally made it to the promised land.

The IAFC was unique in that, with 16 teams competing, there were four quarter-finals and no byes (next year, it will be down to 12 clubs as a Premier JFC is created). The way the different groups panned out made for imbalances as two group winners had four points while Boherbue had five as a runner-up.

The top four seeds, in order, were Aghabullogue, Mitchelstown, Adrigole and Glanworth and Kilshannig – who finished second to Adrigole on scoring difference after the pair and Gabriel Rangers all amassed four points – had to beat Glanworth and then Mitchelstown to reach the final, which they won against Aghabullogue.

They were the lowest-ranked of all of the eventual champions, but it certainly couldn’t be said that they didn’t earn their glory.

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