Cork County Board vice-chairman Pat Horgan has said it wouldn’t have been “fair” or “reasonable” to proceed with plans to regrade from intermediate to junior 18 club teams later this year.
At the end of this year, 13 hurling teams (11 from Lower Intermediate and two from Intermediate A) and five Intermediate A football teams were to be relegated to the junior ranks, but this mass regrading will not now take place. What has been decided instead is that nine intermediate hurling teams, four less than the original 13, will drop down to junior level at the end of 2022.
Moreover, plans to reduce the number of teams in the Cork Intermediate A Football championship from 16 to 12 have been permanently shelved, while the Intermediate A Hurling Championship is to move from a 12 to a 16 team competition.
Horgan said there was unanimous agreement at executive level to pause — and tweak — this year’s mass regrading plans.
“There was unanimous agreement that it wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to proceed with the implementation of the relegation issue of the championship proposals this year,” he remarked.
“It wouldn’t be fair to do it in a year where we were going to have restricted competitions for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.”
On the decision to go with 16-team Intermediate A football and hurling championships from 2023 onwards, rather than the original proposal of 12, Horgan explained: “We got some very welcome correspondence both from divisions and clubs, and we looked at all of that. The divisions were looking to be re-energised with clubs coming back and some clubs were anxious about returning to divisions because they were fearful of not having enough competition. To allay those fears we will have a full review of all junior competitions at county and divisional level.”
Elsewhere, Horgan said that if neither Cork senior team reaches the All-Ireland final then the Cork county championships will commence in late August.
Croke Park’s revised fixture calendar provides an exclusive 11-week window for club championships beginning on the weekend of September 4/5, but Cork will get their championships underway a week or fortnight earlier than that provided neither county team makes the All-Ireland final.
“It has always been our intention to start around the All-Ireland weekends, if the Cork teams are not still involved. Which All-Ireland weekend we’ll be starting with, we are not sure.”
Horgan, who is chair of Cork’s competitions control committee, added: “The challenge for us will be how we conclude our outstanding 2020 championships in conjunction with the running of inter-county. We will be running that with the inter-county programme.”
Cork’s revised master fixture plan for 2021 will be discussed with divisional representatives next Tuesday evening, with clubs to be consulted thereafter.