With no centre of excellence available to Cork’s inter-county teams, and Páirc Uí Rinn having been largely off-limits for training purposes for the opening two months of this year, managers Kieran Kingston and Peadar Healy were left scrambling for pitches as the inclement weather saw the gates locked on several venues used by Cork’s senior teams in recent years.
Former Cork hurler Pat Mulcahy claimed in Tuesday’sthat Kingston’s squad “had nowhere to train” prior to the Allianz hurling league, labelling the facilities shortage as a “disgrace”.
Cork football selector Eoin O’Neill is on the record in highlighting their difficulties in accessing pitches during the early weeks of the new year: “We’ve been on the field seven times since January,” he said the day after their league trouncing to Roscommon at the end of February. U21 football manager Sean Hayes, too, highlighted the availability of pitches as an issue in the run-up to their Munster championship opener this month.
O’Donovan is adamant there is no shortage of training facilities and said the “unprecedentedly bad weather throughout January and February” had simply ruled out of action several pitches that Cork teams were scheduled to train on. All Cork teams, he added, got “95%” of what they looked for, in terms of training amenities.
“I have spoken with the various managers on this and they have intimated to me that they have never had any issues with facilities other than operational issues caused by inclement weather, and the occasional changing of their own schedule,” O’Donovan asserted.
“Things aren’t perfect, but we didn’t have any issue with pitches last year or the year prior to that, because the weather was fine.
“How many times did we see venue changes for national league fixtures because of unplayable pitches? I don’t want to be singling out Roscommon, but they were one county, for example, who had problems with home fixtures because the weather made certain pitches unplayable. Our hurlers were due to play Kerry in the Munster senior hurling league in January, but because the weather was so bad, they couldn’t get a single pitch in the county and so the game was moved to Mallow. The weather is the sole issue here. Facilities aren’t the issue.”
O’Donovan knocked on the head the suggestion that Cork teams are reliant on the generosity of clubs.
“We are not at the behest of clubs. We have arrangements with clubs. The senior managements would have drawn out a schedule before Christmas outlining the nights and venues where they were training for the first quarter of the year. The forward planning meant there is no issue with clubs. ”
The county board official also defended the decision to limit the use of Páirc Uí Rinn to matches.
“A pitch isn’t like a car, you can’t just send it into a garage and it’ll be fixed within a day. A pitch, if damaged, can take weeks to repair.
“If we had opened it up for training for three or four weeks during the bad weather, the reality is that it wouldn’t have been right until summer and would have been in a terrible state for the six national league games that it will host by the end of spring. So you have to weigh things up.”