Clubs hoping championship revamp will bring ‘certainty’

Midleton's Sean O'Meara is tackled by Glen Rovers Robert Downey during the Cork SHC round 1 at Pairc Ui Rinn Picture: Eddie O'Hare

The managers of two leading senior hurling teams in Cork have praised GAA chiefs for their efforts in improving the plight of club players.

At a time of widespread club player unrest and the Club Players Association (CPA) last week hinting at possible strike if Croke Park continue to pay lip service to the fixtures crisis, Glen Rovers manager Richie Kelleher and Na Piarsaigh joint-manager Bill Kelleher have welcomed the new county championship structure in Cork, which will come into play from 2020, as it provides certainty for the too often maligned club player.

Cork clubs earlier this month rejected a proposal to introduce county championship matches without inter-county players and instead voted through a structure which guarantees three championship games — one in April and two in August.

Kelleher, who guided the club to back-to-back Cork SHC titles in 2015 and 2016, says a system where club players are waiting week-to-week on the fortunes of the county team to know when they are playing next is “outdated” and “unfair”.

The Cork SHC, following nine first-round games over the weekend, is now in cold storage until August, but may resume earlier than that if John Meyler’s county side make an early exit in the race for provincial and All-Ireland honours.

What I don’t like is that you are watching Cork and if Cork are knocked out, then you are back out in club championship a week or two weeks later.

"That is all wrong as you have no set date as to when you are out,” reasoned Kelleher.

“If we are being told that we will be playing in April and then again in August, as will be the case from next year, I’m fine with that because you can then plan for April and take your bit of a break after that.

“I don’t like the system where if Cork lose, you are out shortly after, but if they don’t, then you are waiting and waiting. At least now, we have certainty. You can leave fellas off for the summer, they can go away on holidays or whatever and know when they need to be back.

“I’m happy with that. I didn’t get too involved in the debate in recent weeks as Midleton in the first round (the Glen overcame the Magpies by 1-17 to 0-16 on Sunday) were our focus. I’m happy with what was voted through as we now have certainty.”

No more than in Cork, senior club hurling championship in Galway and Limerick finished up over the weekend until the other side of summer. Three-time All-Ireland medal winner Tomás Mulcahy, dismayed by the total lack of club action on the horizon in the coming months, tweeted on Sunday, ‘I cannot believe in the county of Cork that we will have no more club hurling in May, June, July, [and] August’.

Bill Kelleher, one of three men at the helm of the Na Piarsaigh senior hurling team, believes inter-county managers are one of the barriers to club championship at summertime.

Were you to have club during the summer, with so much inter-county action, how much time would clubs actually have [with their players]?

“Clubs are suffering, majorly suffering, because inter-county managers dictate now what is happening,” Kelleher insisted.

“The way it was in the past was that if Cork got knocked out of the championship, you were put out a week after that. So you have to prepare for that eventuality, but if Cork win, your match goes off then for six weeks. You have to try and strike a balance.

“The new system will see players play one game in April and two in August. We have certainty. Is that good enough or acceptable? I don’t know.

"We all like to be playing on days like Sunday and the weather was brillant, but what do you do, you have to accept what is thrown at us. Of all the options there to Cork clubs at present, the option voted through is the best one.”

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