Corner has finally been turned
Yesterday, Wednesday 24 June, is a day we will long remember as it’s the date GAA fields up and down the country finally re-opened after what seemed like an eternity.
In fact, as was mentioned last weekend by Michael Duignan on RTÉ’S 'The Sunday Game', “today was the 15th Sunday without GAA activity”. How did we survive?
In a couple of weeks’ time, all going well, competitive fare will return and you can be sure before that many, if not of all, of our clubs will have got back into action with a series of challenge games in preparation for the championship.
As of yet, we do not know what format the Cork County Championship will take; the executive have indicated their desire to proceed with the format voted in by the clubs last year. The round-robin format will certainly be tough on dual clubs, several of whom have expressed the view that it will place a heavy burden on their players, with so many games in a short period of time.
Players are likely to pick up injuries, and a look at professional sport will verify this as several players have been suffering groin and hamstring injuries, what chance have amateurs got in similar circumstances?
Interestingly a deputation from the Cork senior hurlers, met with the CEO Kevin O’Donovan to offer their opinion on the format of the championship as the time frame would hinder their chances of making progress in the provincial, and hopefully, All-Ireland championships. The decision to bring all the dates forward will allow boards - 17 July for competitive games - a little bit more leeway but will it be enough in Cork’s case?
There are other areas of concern: availability of pitches, will there be a limit on attendance? Will this apply if there are double-headers? That’s always an important concept in fixture-making.
Then what about referees, given the large amount of games that need to be played, will there be enough available to officiate? Well known intercounty official Dave Coldrick is of the opinion that some referees might be reluctant to return, especially those in a certain age bracket.
The GAA will, I understand, release their revised fixture schedule on Friday next. Munster Council will also redraw the Senior Hurling Championship, after which the Cork County Board will then make their plans.
A favourable draw, a bye into the semi-final, would ease the pressure somewhat on the board’s fixture-making body. Any change to the format will need to be approved by a full meeting of the Cork County Board, which under current restrictions, will have to be held remotely.
Whatever decisions the Cork County Board arrive at, the most important people to consider in all of this are the players - their wellbeing has to be a factor, in fact it’s the main factor as, after all, with no players there are no games. All will be revealed in the coming days and the decisions will be watched with interest, as we all look forward to a resumption of play.
The Camogie Association unveiled their fixture schedule and it was met with mixed views. The cancellation of the national league will be a disappointment for Tipperary who had qualified for the final, and for Cork who were one win away from joining them in the decider.
Equally Cork’s bid for a third successive All-Ireland Minor title is over as the championship has also been cancelled, a strange move and yet they intend to proceed with an under 16 championship which has yet to start.
The minor championship can be played at provincial level, but with no All-Ireland, will counties enter? It’s tough for players in their final year being denied an opportunity to win a coveted All-Ireland medal.
As for the All-Ireland senior and intermediate championships, they will be played between October and December on a round robin basis, dates and draws to be confirmed in the coming weeks. With so much activity in these months, add in hurling, football and ladies football, the pitches that were well rested for many months will now be in use at a level we have not seen before.
Meanwhile, the draws for the Cork County Championships were made and at senior level there are some intriguing first round encounters. Champions Sarsfields will begin the defence of the title against Glen Rovers, who actually lead the roll of honour in titles won.
There are two cracking local derbies; St Finbarr’s vs Douglas and Ballincollig vs Inniscarra. There’s a clash of former champions, Éire Óg vs Milford, as well as Courcey Rovers vs Cloughduv, while it’s Ballygarvan vs St Catherines. Last year’s intermediate winners, Newcestown, will begin life in this grade against Killeagh. Three divisions - Carbery, Seandun and Imokilly will also participate with two advancing to the championship proper. Dates for the opening rounds will be announced shortly.
The decision of this body to, at the time of writing, not hold competitions for under 13 and 15 and limit under 16 to league only, is, to say the least, strange and has rightly angered most of the clubs who are affected by this move.
Equally, limiting the season to just the months of August and September is also a move that will make it very difficult to complete and does little to enhance the board’s image of providing games for the next generation of players.
It has to be acknowledged that all boards are dealing with a situation very few could have envisaged they would find themselves in, but denying young boys of the opportunity to play our games is not the answer. Let’s hope common sense will prevail and that decision is reversed - it needs to be.