Imokilly and Duhallow have voiced strong opposition to suggestions from Cork GAA CEO Kevin O’Donovan to address the dominance of “juggernaut” divisional teams in Cork.
The hurlers of Imokilly completed a three in a row of Cork SHC titles in October, the first Cork side to do so in 37 years, while Duhallow reached the Cork football decider.
In his report to Sunday’s convention, Cork CEO O’Donovan laid out three separate proposals to “redress the balance for senior clubs”.
He also noted that “one would need superior levels of indifference to ignore the rumblings at club level and the reduced excitement (and, indeed, subsequent attendances) when club teams exit the championship at the hands of a divisional or college team”.
O’Donovan suggested players who line out for a county final-winning college or divisional team would be ineligible to play for that side the following year; eligibility for divisional/college teams would be restricted to Intermediate A and junior players; or players who represent Cork at senior inter-county level in a given year would be ineligible for such representative teams, thus allowing these rounds to progress during the summer.
First up to challenge O’Donovan’s three proposals was Imokilly president Willie Ring.
“Divisions doing three in a row is not a regular phenomenon. It happens every now and then. I don’t accept there is an imbalance,” Ring began. “[The secretary] wants players who’ve lined out for a county winning college or division to not be eligible for the following year, I don’t agree with that. Achievement should be rewarded, not punished.
The last idea regarding the Cork senior players in any given year being ineligible to play with their division, surely this is not fair to the Cork senior panellists from the junior and intermediate clubs, that they be punished for being good enough to make the senior team.
Rowing in behind Ring was Duhallow secretary Tony McAuliffe.
“It is difficult to keep divisions going. If you limit the number of players that are eligible to play for a division, then you are going to have difficulty fielding. We are one of the successful divisions in football, but on the other end of the stick, we are one of the divisions that is struggling in hurling.
“We have to put a lot of ducks in a row to encourage people to play for the division and if we start barring certain players from playing, then we are going to struggle to field.”
In his report, O’Donovan remarked: “For smaller clubs, that have fought their way through the ranks to senior, to face a juggernaut at a later stage of the championship is questionable.”
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Carbery chairman Tommy Lyons. “You have one big juggernaut in Imokilly, at the moment, but they’ll be gone in a couple of years. You have Duhallow doing well in football too. The rest of us are struggling badly to get out divisional teams. We are not a juggernaut, we are not rolling over anybody.
“We are being asked to field teams in May/June of next year without our county players. That is not what the clubs are being asked to do. If they have county players, they won’t be asked to play until August.”
Passage delegate Matt Aherne spoke in favour of the divisions and maintaining the status quo.
“It has been said that divisional teams are loaded with inter-county players. That is a total exaggeration. I would be more concerned with the colleges. There is a major anomaly there, that a club player can play senior in Kilkenny, for example, and Cork. It is totally mad that he can play senior championship in two different counties.”
Cork chairperson Tracey Kennedy said there needs to be a discussion as to who would represent the county in the event of a division winning the senior championship.
“The situation whereby the losing county finalists go on to represent the county, I consider that to be an unsatisfactory one. I don’t think it is fair to that club, who lost the county final, to then be expected to go out within a short space of time and represent Cork.”
Elsewhere, Douglas delegate Der O’Regan said it made little sense for Cork’s performance-related sponsorship with Chill Insurance to be tied solely to the senior teams when “they got great coverage as a result of our minor and U20 footballers doing so well this year”. Cork’s sponsorship income fell by €400k to €330k in 2019.
In Monday’s Irish Examiner, a quote was incorrectly attributed to Imokilly president Willie Ring. It was, in fact, Willie Coleman of Ballinhassig who made the comment in support of abolishing the Cork GAA delegate pass. We are happy to clarify this error.