Cork’s two-year-old county championship structure will have to be changed if the GAA’s rules advisory committee holds firm on its view that Cork’s flagship competitions are in breach of rule.
At Congress 2021 a motion was passed restricting county senior and intermediate championships to a maximum of 16 teams. The 16-team cap, which comes into effect from next year, was designed to streamline the club season and make it easier for county boards to deliver a practical fixtures schedule.
At present, 12 clubs participate in Cork’s top-tier senior hurling and football championships. The county’s eight divisions, along with UCC and MTU Cork, compete in a qualifying section that runs parallel to the county championship, and from which one team progresses to the knockout stages of the county championship proper. That gives a total of 22 teams chasing county championship glory.
Cork officials have long contended that their premier senior championships are fully compliant with the 16-team cap, a view not shared by rules advisory, it has now emerged. And so unless rules advisory row back on their stance, Cork will be left with little option but to tweak their flagship competitions so as to comply with rule.
“We were previously advised by rules advisory that they believed our county championship was in breach of rule. There was a stay of execution, so it is in 2023 that counties are asked to conform with a 16-team county championship at senior and intermediate,” Cork secretary Kevin O’Donovan explained.
“The position of rules advisory was that we have approximately 22 teams in our championships, if all divisions and colleges entered - your 12 premier senior clubs, eight divisions, and two colleges.
“That is certainly not the view of the county executive or CCC. We believe we have a 12-team county championship, plus one other team. Our format is that 10 teams are over here in one competition (divisions/colleges section) and 12 are over there (premier senior championship), and one comes from the 10 to join the 12.
“We have gone back to rules advisory in the last week reaffirming our position and seeking clarity again. We will have to wait because they do have the final call on this as to whether we are in breach of rule or not.
“Their position when they last corresponded with us was there’s 22 teams in the Cork premier senior championship and that there can only be 16. It would be a cause for concern if our championship was deemed not to be within rule for next year, but no alarm bells yet.”
Galway, one of the counties affected by the cap and who opposed the motion at Congress, have reworked their senior hurling championship so that next year’s Senior AHC will have 16 teams and eight in Senior B. But where once a path existed for B teams to compete for the county cup, that crossover link has now been severed.