Relegation on hold and draws go ahead
A sure sign that the season is finally gathering momentum has been the release of the times and venues for the upcoming Allianz National Leagues, and apart from the Camogie and Ladies Football, the season has been well and truly documented.
The reason for the delay in the ladies’ organisations isn’t known and surely the players on the respective panels should have some indication of when their championships will get underway or, more importantly, what format they will take. Given the GAA has opted for the county first followed by club, the expectation is that Camogie and Ladies Football would follow suit. Or has the delay anything to do with the possibility both organisations are not going to opt for the spilt season and operate a different fixture calendar?
I hope it’s not the case as it was clear from last year that the players, who are the ones that really matter, enjoyed the amount of uninterrupted time they had with their clubs.
The circumstances are slightly different this year in that the club would be later in the year.
This issue was raised by some hurlers and footballers when the schedule was released, that the club season running so late could pose problems in terms of training late in the year - not every club has lights, a fair point, but hopefully any such issues can be dealt with to the satisfaction of everyone.
Te draws for the county hurling and football championships will take place tonight, Thursday, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.The board this week revealed the teams who will be the seeds in the various grades.
It’s somewhat of a surprise that Sarsfields are among the top seeds in the premier senior hurling, despite not making the last four, losing to neighbours Erin’s Own in the quarter-final. The fact they topped the group gave them that spot along with champions Blackrock and runners-up Glen Rovers in pot one. Pot two contains Douglas, Erin’s Own and Na Piarsaigh. This’s where it gets interesting as pot three has Midleton, Newtownshandrum and St Finbarr’s. The big hitter in pot four will be the 2020 Senior ‘A’ Champions Charleville who are a formidable outfit and some teams would like to avoid them. The pot is completed with Carrigtwohill and Bishopstown.
The Senior A Championship will produce some cracking groups and again the seeds make for interesting reading. Pot one will have Fr O’Neill’s, Kanturk and Ballyhea who were relegated from the top grade and a bit like Charleville in premier senior, Blarney are listed as a fourth seed and with the quality and talent they have at their disposal, they will be a team that could have a big say in the destination of this title.
The football is a bit more complicated in that all of the championships have yet to be completed but the grading committee has done the work and the draws will proceed along the same lines as the hurling, but of course the final composition of the groups will not be known until the finals are played.
No real surprise that the top seeds in premier senior are finalists Nemo Rangers, Castlehaven and St Finbarr’s, with Ballincollig, Newcestown and Valley Rovers second seeds. In the third pot, you have Carbery Rangers, Douglas and Clonakilty, with pot four containing Carrigaline, Valley Rovers and either Eire Og or Mallow, with the losers then reverting to be a second seed in Senior A.
Top seeds in this competitive championship are Bishopstown, Fermoy and O’Donovan Rossa, while the two other second seeds are St Michaels and Bandon, Clyda Rovers, Kiskeam and Ballingeary are third seeds. In the fourth pot are Bantry Blues, Doheny’s and the winners of the Premier Intermediate Final Kanturk or Knocknagree.
Last season the Premier Senior produced some fascinating groups, including an all-West Cork quartet and that possibility could arise again. Equally in hurling the possibility of a number of local derbies only adds to the intrigue in all grades.
Two teams from each group will advance to the knock-out stage, with the best two in senior hurling and football making the semi-finals, the remaining four go to the quarter-finals where they will be joined by two from the divisional and colleges section.
Interestingly the draw for the part of the championhip will not take place as uncertainty surrounds what divisions and colleges will actually enter the championship.
Last year in football only Duhallow, Carbery and UCC entered. Beara initially entered but withdrew citing an inability to field a team. Maybe with a new officer board at the helm that situation will change this year.
In hurling, UCC, Imokilly and Duhallow took part.It is known that Seandun will enter this year and have assembled an impressive backroom team that includes former Cork coach Justin McCarthy.
Of course the timing of these championships is all dependent on the progress of our inter-county teams, but even now it looks like it will be August before they can get underway. Croke Park said once the involvement in the All-Ireland championships has ended, counties can start their competitions.
Cork County Board has six finals to play. It’s the intention to complete these before starting the 2021 championships, complicated even further by the fact that Éire Óg is involved in two finals.
The County Junior Hurling and Football championships are also unfinished. In fact some divisions are still to bring their championship to a conclusion.
The All-Ireland Under 20 Hurling Final is also due to be played. Cork is awaiting the Leinster winners, Galway or Dublin. The scheduling of that final might impact of the start date of championships here.
First up are the draws and clubs all over the county will be watching with interest at what unfolds on Thursday night.
A couple of weeks ago, on the back of correspondence from a number of clubs, the Board’s Executive decided to alter the plans for relegation from the Lower Intermediate Hurling for another year.
The plan was to dissolve the grade and send 12 clubs back to their respective divisions to compete in the Junior Championship.
Those that made submissions felt that in the light of two seasons with limited preparation and reduced league competitions, it would be unfair to impose relegation on them in these circumstances.
To be fair, the Executive accepted this and only one team will be relegated to junior.
It is the Executive’s intention to proceed with the abolition of this grade but it will not take place now until next season. The other knock-on effect is that in the Intermediate grade relegation play-off only one of three instead of two from Glen Rovers, Meelin and Argideen Rangers will now be relegated to this year’s Lower Intermediate Championship.
Sunday week sees the opening game of the Allianz National Hurling League for Cork when they play Waterford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh with a 3.45pm start. It will be live on C103, in what will be the start of a hectic few weeks of action. We will preview that game next week and get the thoughts of manager Kieran Kingston.
Next week will also see news of the 96FM/C103 GAA Sports Star Awards.