Imokilly and Glen take battle from boardroom to field of play

Given no team has been able to lay a glove on them these past three years, you’d think Imokilly wouldn’t have a score to settle with anybody.

Imokilly and Glen take battle from boardroom to field of play

Given no team has been able to lay a glove on them these past three years, you’d think Imokilly wouldn’t have a score to settle with anybody.

Unbeaten in their last 18 championship games, and boasting an average winning margin of nine points during this stretch of dominance, no side, since August 2016, has had their number.

On the field, they’ve been untouchable.

But last December, and away from the four white lines, there was an attempt made to take Imokilly — and every other division, for that matter — out of the equation.

The very club Imokilly face in Sunday’s final brought a motion to county convention which, if passed, would have seen each and every division kicked out of the Cork senior hurling and football championships, not to mind bringing an end to Imokilly’s three-in-a-row charge before it had even left the runway.

Introducing the motion at convention, Glen Rovers secretary Jude O’Callaghan said they wanted to level the playing field for club players.

“The club player has the option of playing in one championship. Those representing divisions have the luxury of playing in two championships. Is this fair? Surely this must be addressed,” he said.

St Finbarr’s spoke in favour of the motion, but far more lined up to chastise Glen Rovers for seeking to remove divisions from the senior championship.

Leading the opposition was Imokilly president Willie Ring, who took aim at the clubs supporting this motion and their attempts to thwart Imokilly in the boardroom.

“If you want to get rid of divisional teams, this is not the way to do it. It should be done in manly combat, beating them on the field of play and no other way,” said Ring, to much applause, before delegates overwhelmingly rejected the motion.

Imokilly manager Fergal Condon is in no doubt the motion was tabled off the back of their successful county title defence. He was pleased to see it beaten.

“The answer, as to the appetite for divisional teams in the championship, was in the vote,” said Condon ahead of his team’s third consecutive county final appearance.

“Hearsay is what you get in the pub over the winter months, but the fact is that that motion was blown out of the water when it came to convention, beaten around four to one.

"That shows me the real hurling people and the people who love the GAA love to go see a good team playing hurling. We won’t be at the top forever. We might not be at the top Sunday evening.

"While we are there, we are going to respect what we’ve done, respect what we’re at, and respect our opposition.”

Condon makes the point that his own team’s journey is proof positive of the importance of divisional teams and the benefits a club can reap from an organised divisional set-up.

“Obviously, some divisions aren’t working as hard as others, in terms of hurling, which is a pity.

"Because if you go into a certain division, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get the top 30 hurlers out of it and put together a fine team.

“We are the proof of that. We were beaten by Carbery in 2014 in the colleges/divisions section. In 2015, we got to the county quarter-final, against Sars.

"We were 0-9 to 0-1 down and we ended up losing by 0-20 to 0-16. It took us a while to adapt, but when we got going, we were every bit as good as them.

You have to have a foundation, people who want to run it properly, people who want to manage it properly, and put in place an environment which allows lads to flourish and play better, as you can see we have.

"If you do that, lads will buy into it. I don’t know why some divisions go into it if they don’t want to do that.

“We are a combination of clubs. Those clubs understand what we are at.

"We are able to give the top hurlers in a club access to really top-quality, fast-paced games, and it speeds them up for the games they’ll play with their club.

"You’d see our fellas a mile away when you go to watch the club games. The young fellas go back better hurlers.”

Victory this Sunday would see Imokilly join the Glen, the Barr’s, and Blackrock as the fourth side to manage a three-in-a-row of Cork SHC titles. There’s been no talk of that within the camp, though.

“Everyone else is mentioning three-in-a-row. We are just focused on the next game,” says Condon.

The manager also downplayed the need to bag further silverware this weekend given they will lose up to one-third of their starting team next year as Fr O’Neill’s and Cloyne step up to Senior A.

“Mark O’Keeffe, Ger Millerick, Declan Dalton, and Paudie O’Sullivan will definitely not be playing with Imokilly next year.

"The plus side is that Colm Spillane, Niall O’Leary, and Ciaran O’Brien will be back from injury.

"You also see the young fellas we are pulling through, the likes of Shane O’Regan, Joe Stack, and Liam O’Shea.

"Put all that together. The plusses and minuses neutralise out.”

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