Cork County Board CEO Kevin O’Donovan is delighted clubs on Leeside fully engaged in the process to reformat the county championships and he believes a message was sent from Tuesday’s board meetings regarding the plight of club players.
Clubs were voting on how the county championships should operate from 2020. With three systems before them, delegates were strongly in favour of Option A, which will see four 12-team grades split into three groups of four teams, with one game played in April and two in August.
This received 136 votes, with Option C — which would have seen clubs play some games without intercounty players — getting 52, while Option B, an August start to the championship, had 33. O’Donovan was happy that there was a strong buy-in, while he noted the relatively strong performance of Option C.
“I’m delighted with the outcome as well; I had no dog in the race, I was happy with all proposals. There is clearly a desire to have the one game in April and to have county players available for all club championship games.
“But, there was a little signal, with almost quarter of the vote going to C, that people are not fully happy with the world we’re constrained in and there’s a huge appetite for summer games.
“Playing those without inter-county players is off the table, but there is a need now for us to look at our leagues and provide games through some other format. Across all A, B and C, there was a huge desire for summer games.
“The core elements of more competitive championships, relegation, group games, giving greater certainty to the clubs with regard to fixtures, those were all our non-negotiables.
“I’m delighted with that and what we were trying to do with that was take one bound to catch up with what is established practice in other counties and then giving the clubs the option to see if they wanted to take two bounds. They said one bound was enough for now.”
With a strong appetite for summer games, O’Donovan feels that this could be start of a move to reclaim those months from the ever-expanding inter-county scene.
“The primacy of the club player was on everybody’s agenda, whichever of the three options they voted for,” he said.
“We have constrained choices, we didn’t have the option to put five games across the summer with inter-county players available, we have to be realistic that the inter-county programme is there. There is definitely a mandate in Cork to consider how they vote on future inter-county championship proposals.
“It was also interesting to see what a low vote B got, and that’s standard practice in a lot of counties, wait until the county championships are finished. For us to wait that long would be detrimental, so that’s off the table for a long time.”
Cork chairperson Tracey Kennedy accepts imperfections remain, but hopes that the county leagues can be improved to fill the summer gap.
"We haven’t solved all the problems, by any manner of means,” she said.
“There’s an extra game with the group stages but, other than that, it’s not a massive change to what we have now. You’re still going to have the issue of an empty summer and the challenge now is for us and the clubs to come up with a solution.
“We’d love a situation where clubs took our leagues more seriously. We’ve been striving to achieve that and there have been some changes this year, we hope now that that gap can be used in a more meaningful way. That’s our challenge now.”