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Game On

Playing fields remain silent

Thursday, 16th April, 2020 10:59am

In ordinary circumstances this week’s column would be previewing the opening rounds of the County Senior Hurling Championship, with the ‘Barr’s versus Glen Rovers the standout fixture.

But as we know these are not ordinary times.

The playing fields of the county and country are silent, at a time of the year when they should be buzzing with activity. And rightly so as the country grapples with Covid-19, and once again our grateful thanks to all those frontline workers in so many organisations who continue to work tirelessly on all our behalf.

They are deserving of our thanks and when this is all over, their efforts should not be forgotten.

For now though let’s look at the issues facing the GAA ahead of Friday’s Special Congress that is being held remotely in view of the restrictions on travel.

The statement released by the GAA on Tuesday confirmed what we already expected to happen.

Club activity remains suspended until 5 May, while all intercounty championship games fixed for the month are postponed.

For Cork, that means the delay of the opening game in the round-robin phase of the Munster Hurling Championship against Limerick on 10 May and the football semi-final versus Kerry on 23 May. Both were fixed for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Of course this also means the minor hurling and football championship games have been postponed.

The GAA have also stated it expects it will be July at the earliest when these games are re-scheduled.

Interestingly, the intention is to complete the remaining games in the Allianz National Leagues with a view to finalising what divisions counties will play in next season.

Not every game will need to be played - the concluding stages of the hurling will not conclude, while in football, finals will not take place.

This is good news for the Cork footballers who are just one point away from promotion to Division 2, with Louth at home and Longford away to play.

The need for Friday’s Special Congress is to empower the Management Committee and the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) to alter the structure of the championship.

It is clear that the round-robin in Munster and Leinster hurling cannot be played, which will mean a draw for these championships, with a second chance for all counties being the favoured option by Croke Park.

Similarly in football, the Tier 2 championship will be deferred until next season, the Super 8s will be parked, and like hurling, each county will be guaranteed two games.

It will make for a few hectic week of intense activity, and it is certain that there will be reduced capacity at all venues.

Playing games behind closed doors is also being looked at, and while the safety of everyone is paramount, it is my view that this would not be good for anyone, and interestingly Cork captain Patrick Horgan did not fancy the idea.

If and when activity re-commences, club and intercounty games will be accommodated.

The likelihood is that the All-Ireland finals will be moved from their proposed dates in August and September to later in the year.

County Championship

With the Cork County Championships also on hold, what will the Board decide to do with these should they resume? It is understood that they are keen to hold a championship this year.

It is well documented that a new format was being introduced for the 2020 championship; however given the short time frame now available, this looks set to deferred.

The question then is how do they proceed? I am sure the clubs, the majority of them dual clubs, will have an input into this decision.

If the format of the last number of years is to be continued with, where do last year’s premier intermediate champions, Fr O’Neill’s in hurling and Éire Óg in football, play? In the senior championship even though they were graded senior ‘A’ for 2020?

The same applies to the other grades, the added complication is the proposed introduction of an extra championship in both hurling and football.

Next issue: where do the divisions and the colleges fit in? Can they be facilitated, can games involving players who are available for both teams be played on the same weekends, with club games coming first?

How will dual clubs cope, especially if the championships are to have a losers round similar to the intercounty teams?

The Board’s fixture makers will, in conjunction with the clubs, have some tough decisions to make in the weeks ahead, and like everyone else they are dependent on events they have no control over.

Interesting times ahead, and with all that is going on in the world, sport could be said to be the least of our problems, but it’s an integral part of our lives and we all want it back, in whatever form that may be.

Tommy Mullins

The death in the last few days of Tommy came as a shock to all of us that knew him, even though his health had not been great in recent years.

Tommy rendered Na Piarsaigh outstanding service as a hurler and footballer, and on retiring from playing, continued to serve the club with distinction, while he also acted as Cork under 21 and minor hurling selector on a number of occasions.

Away for the game Tommy was great company, many a trip I enjoyed with him especially with the great Glen Rovers camogie team as they travelled the country winning Munster and All-Ireland titles, of which his wife Helena was a part of. Although he never lost his grá for Na Piarsaigh, he cheered for the Glen as loudly as anyone on those days.

Tommy shortened many an after match trip home, with his good humour and a huge selections of songs, and those nights often went on longer than they should have, but you have to enjoy the occasion.

To his wife Helena, sons Padraig, Tomas, daughters Brenda and Sinead, grandchildren and extended family, sincere sympathy on the loss of one of nature’s gentleman.

Ní bheidh a leitheid ann arís. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

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