Blackrock won the Senior Hurling Championship in October. The draw for this year will be made at the end of April. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

GAA season set to ramp up

Well the games might not be started yet - almost there though - but there was plenty of talking points, not least the controversy surrounding the Dublin footballers.

It was a little over 48 hours after it was announced that inter county training could get underway on 19 April when news broke that the All-Ireland champions had been indulging in early morning training sessions in direct contravention of the GAA’s ban on organized training.

The reaction was of widespread condemnation of their actions with President Larry McCarthy hoping it would not impact on their plans for a complete return to training, thankfully it will not.

In fairness the Dublin County Board also acted swiftly, suspending Manager Dessie Farrell for a period of 12 weeks, the exact same sanction imposed on Cork Manager Ronan McCarthy for a similar breach. Down boss Paddy Tally also got 12 weeks, but had it reduced to eight on appeal.

The fact that Dublin County Board acted may not be the end of the matter, as Croke Park has set up a sub-committee, I understand under the chairmanship of former Munster Council CEO Simon Moroney, to investigate the incident fully and subsequently report their findings to the Management Committee.

What can they do? Increase the suspension, fine Dublin County Board and probably make them play one league game away from home. Will any of the above three options impact of the team? Unlikely.

I also found strange the reaction of some to the fact that the Dubs were actually training, which they should not have been, especially now as the situation in the country appear to be going in the right direction.

There were calls for them to be removed from the championship - ridiculous and never going to happen.

The reaction from some of our friends from across the county bounds was also unnecessary. Would it have anything to do with the fact that Dublin are chasing a seventh All-Ireland title on the bounce, surely not, they are far more sporting then that!

Whatever happens from here on in will not reflect well on Dublin senior footballers, but it probably won’t stop them winning again, in fact it might well give them an extra edge, as if they need it.

National Hurling League

It is expected by the end of this week the fixture schedule for the inter-county season will be released by the CCCC. The format for the football league has already been flagged and it seems likely that the hurling league will follow along similar lines.

Two options were forwarded to the counties late last week, with their views to be made known to Croke Park by Monday last.

One option was for four team groups with three games, with a four week run-in league to start on the weekend of 15/16 May.

The second option and the one I understand is favoured by the majority of team managers was for six team groups with five games, but with only a three week run in period and a start date of 8/9 May.

Cork boss Kieran Kingston has said the five game group would be ideal for the team and in the process allow them the opportunity to give competitive game time to the newcomers to the panel.

The GAA have also confirmed that there will be a two week gap between the completion of the league and the opening games in the championship.

If the fixture plan works out, it could well mean the All-Ireland Finals will be played in August after which the focus will switch to the club championships.

Of course as counties exit the championship the option is there for the county championship to commence.

Interestingly addressing the Cork County Board meeting on Tuesday, President Larry McCarthy while acknowledging that the inter-county was very important, he was really looking forward to the return of club action.

When that will be he was unsure saying: “I suppose it will depend on how we manage the return of underage activity in the coming week”.

The President praised the board and the clubs for their response to the Rebel Bounty draw and was also confident that the terms of Páirc Uí Chaoimh ‘a corner has been turned’.

So all going well, it looks like the hurling league will get underway on the second weekend of May, and the groupings and fixtures will be watched with interest.

Cork County Board

That meeting on Tuesday night delegates were informed that the draws for the 2021 county championships will take place on Thursday 29 April, even though some championships from last year remain to be finished, and the board have said they will be completed before this year’s competitions get underway.

The outstanding issues around promotion and relegation will complicate matters; the board are right to plan ahead and make the draws and give the clubs plenty of notice for when the games are likely to be played, again dependent on events of which they cannot control.

The board have also followed the Croke Park line, in setting up a sub-committee to look at the alleged training session held by a West Cork club last month, and report back their findings and like the events in Dublin, the outcome of this will be watched with interest.

One other development that surfaced during the week, was the board’s decision to change the standard of medals presented to county champions, from solid gold to silver with a gold rim - I presume this is a financial decision.

While I can understand the financial implications, it’s tough on this year’s winners who will not now receive a similar medal to previous champions. Does it matter to players, after all a medal is a medal? In my opinion it does.

A county championship medal is precious, I wish I had one, and to have such a big decision taken, without consultation I believe, was wrong, there was some rumblings I understand from one county championship winning club on the issue but according to the Officers of the Board, the matter is now closed.

Camogie and Ladies Football

Good news for the second teams involved in the camogie league and championship as they will be allowed return to training on 19 April and also take part in both competitions, unlike last year, when at very short notice they were removed from the championship.

At intermediate level this affected Cork, Galway, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Dublin, and robbed the championship of any meaningful competition.

A similar situation happened in the junior grade, which I think ended up with just two counties contesting the All-Ireland Final, it was a Department Of Health decision and outside the control of the Camogie Association, but one that did not sit well with a lot of people.

Meanwhile the Ladies Football have decided on the groups for the Lidl National Football League with the two best teams in the country Cork and the All-Ireland champions Dublin in Division 1B along with Tipperary and Waterford, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals to join the top two from Division 1A.

The league gets underway on 23 May, they will continue on a weekly basis up to the semi-finals on 13 June with the final fixed for 27 June.

Three Cork clubs, Mourneabbey, Clonakilty and Valley Rovers have Munster Championship commitments to complete and hopefully, a clash of fixtures can be avoided.

Finbarr Hennessey RIP

Finbarr’s passing on Monday severed a link with the Doheny’s GAA club with whom he served with distinction over a lifetime in a variety of positions from president to board delegate - a role he held for over 50 years.

Aside from his commitment to his club, he worked tirelessly in a number of roles for the Cork County Board on a voluntary basis. Steward on match days, but more recently on ticket sales for big games, particularly in the run up to All-Ireland Finals where along with others he would be in Páirc Uí Rinn on a daily basis helping with distribution.

As a board delegate he was helpful at all times, and respected by all who he dealt with.

Sincere sympathy to his family and his colleagues in his beloved Doheny’s, who I sure will have turned out in strength, even under the current circumstances, to give him the send off he deserved when he made his final return journey to Dunmanway yesterday.

‘The Doheny’ as he was known was going home. Ar dheis Dé ar a hanam dhilis.

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