Matches are finally on horizon
It’s been a hectic few days in terms of clarity, for players and officials all over the country with the release of the revised fixture schedule at both club and intercounty level.
The most striking aspect is the possibility of the All-Ireland Finals in December; hurling on the 13th followed by the football decider on the 19th.
I say possibility because it is all dependent on the virus being contained and hopefully that will be the case, even if there is some concern about the number of cases increasing in recent days.
The good news, as was generally known, is that the Cork footballers will get the opportunity to complete their league programme, and with it, promotion to Division 2.
Louth will visit Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the weekend of 17-18 October and then a week later it’s a trip to the midlands to play Longford, where they should conclude the league unbeaten.
Finals will not be played but the team that tops the group will be declared league champions.
The downside for the football counties, and manager Ronan McCarthy was very strong on this, is that Munster Championship is straight knock-out, so the Cork vs Kerry clash in the Páirc on 7/8 November is a winner takes all clash. Some big hitters will exit at the first round, Tyrone vs Monaghan being just one that springs to mind. As for the Dubs, even without Jack McCafferey, they should encounter few problems in Leinster.
That will allow them build up nicely for the All-Ireland semi-finals, what odds of six All-Ireland titles on the bounce?
In hurling, the new draw in Munster has worked out favourably for Cork, if only for the fact that they are into the semi-final against Waterford, with Tipperary, Clare and Limerick slugging it out in the other half.
Of course, Liam Cahill will see it exactly the same way for his Waterford side. One win and the path to the All-Ireland series is considerably shortened, and in recent years, Waterford’s record against Cork has been good.
The other factor is the time of the year in which these championships will now be played; granted pitches at all big match venues are in excellent condition, but it is essentially National League-type weather that these games will be played in.
Who will that favour? There are those who will say not Cork, but then it’s knock-out and on any given day, Kieran Kingston’s side are capable of beating anyone.
The Cork vs Waterford clash is scheduled for the weekend of 31 October/1 November, with Thurles the likely venue.
The Munster Hurling Final is fixed for 14/15 November, and with qualifiers in hurling, the direct route will be favoured by all teams but the safety net is always there unlike the case of the footballers. It certainly should make for an exciting few weeks and let’s hope the Cork teams can enjoy successful campaigns.
Both will come on the back of a County Championship programme that will feature a round-robin format in all grades, with six games for the dual clubs, in an eight week period. The knock-out phase will kick-in in September and county finals are fixed for early October, allowing time for the intercounty sides to prepare for their campaigns.
Both Kieran Kingston and Ronan McCarthy will be keeping a keen eye on the form of their players and hopefully injuries can be avoided.
The County Championships will begin on the weekend of 24/25 July with the opening rounds in football and we will have a more in depth look at these fixtures in next week’s column.
The Munster Council also held their draws for the revised minor hurling and football championships and Cork were handed tough tests in both codes.
In football it’s the All-Ireland champions Cork vs the Munster champions Kerry with the latter enjoying home advantage.
Cork will play Clare in a hurling quarter-final and Limerick await the winners in the last four. Tipperary should make the final, and for the Munster winners it’s an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway - the Leinster champions go direct to the All-Ireland Final.
In both championships it's straight knock-out, and the path for the hurlers is certainly going to prove a baptism of fire for their high powered management team. Exact dates and venues will be fixed for these games in the coming weeks along with senior intercounty programme.
Camogie and Ladies Football
Meanwhile no decision has yet been made on the efforts to reverse the decision to cancel the All-Ireland Minor Camogie Championship and the draw for the revised senior championship has not yet been made.
The draws were made for the County Senior Camogie Championship, and also the Rebel Óg Premier Minor Championships: dates have been pencilled in for both competitions and we will preview them next week.
In Ladies Football, Cork have been paired with Cavan and Kerry in Group 1 and the expectation is that the seeded teams, Dublin, Mayo and Galway, should join Ephie Fitzgerald’s side in the last four.
Oliver Dorgan RIP
Oliver’s passing last week was mourned by many, especially his family along with his friends and colleagues in Carrig Na bFhear GAA club, for whom he worked tirelessly
over many years.
Oliver was a quiet man whose support for the GAA was well known and he was a familiar figure at games all over the country, and I had the pleasure of meeting him at many venues. Páirc Uí Rinn, Croke Park, Thurles, and especially the Mardkye for third level games, while he had a particular interest in underage games and was very knowledgeable on young hurlers and footballers he had seen play.
I heard a lovely story from a friend on how Oliver managed to bag a prime seat in Croke Park, I should add having paid for his ticket, and it summed him up perfectly. He was a lovely man and it was a pleasure to be in his company.
His presence at these games when they eventually resume will be sorely missed, and sincere sympathy to his family on their loss at this very sad time.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.