Cork can officially be confirmed as the county making the most of the GAA club window — but it may have knock-on effects for their senior county teams’ preparations.
A study of 15 counties, including the other five in Munster, reveals Kieran Kingston and Ronan McCarthy will not be as ready to go on the September 14 inter-county training start date as rival managers.
No other county in the country has both senior football and hurling semi-final dates as late as Cork.
Despite the GAA warning of sanctions for counties training prior to September 14, it won’t do much for Cork, who are likely to have several county players involved in club action weeks after other panels are able to convene on that date.
While Kingston and McCarthy will be officially permitted to convene collective sessions from the middle of September, some quarter-finals are expected to take place in the senior Cork championships the following weekend thus ruling out the opportunity to conduct full preparations. Whereas their Munster SHC semi-final opponents Waterford could be able to call on their full complement of players for full training on September 14, at least three weeks ahead of Cork.
Of the ten Liam MacCarthy Cup teams, Cork has the latest final on the weekend of October 4. Five weeks is the difference between the Waterford and Cork deciders as it is the time between their quarter-final ties being completed.
With similar dates pencilled in for Cork’s SFC semi-final games, McCarthy is unlikely to be able to take full advantage of the eight weeks from September 14 to the weekend of November 7 when Cork face Kerry in a do-or-die Munster SFC semi-final.
Although the Cork SFC final is set to take place only a week after Kerry’s county decider, there could be as many as three weeks before Kerry’s last eight games and those of Cork’s being decided. Kerry have also included the provision to stage club championship games at earlier times so they may not run into late September.
The Cork SFC final, scheduled for the weekend of October 4, is only second behind Carlow (October 11) as the latest senior club football final in the country. In hurling, only the Meath final is due to be decided after Cork’s.
The difficulties faced by Cork as the largest GAA county and its dual make-up were raised by former dual player Denis Walsh last week:
To be fair to the administrators in Cork, I just feel that no matter what way you turn or twist that Ronan and Kieran have to be at some sort of a disadvantage against the other counties for obvious reasons.
The overlap between the official inter-county training start date of September 14 and the end of the club window of October 11 has been criticised by the Club Players Association (CPA).
Chief executive Micheál Briody highlighted how the anomaly afforded some counties to get a headstart on others: “It’s a club window and no county should be able to steal a march on another county if their county board facilitated an early championship. There could be club league games to cater for those players. Needs a level playing field or else it is a form of cheating.
“County boards tasked with giving a programme of games for 11 weeks, they should use it all. Preferably end with championship, not league. September 14 is a cheat on October 11 and should never have been allowed but that’s for another day.”
Analysis of other counties shows a considerable number of Dublin and Tipperary county players in both codes will be free of club commitments by the start of September as their senior championships will be down to the semi-final stages by then.