Carbery GAA Chairman TOM LYONS outlines the 10 biggest issues the divisional board is facing this year
UNCERTAINTY is definitely the name of the game in the GAA these days. Nobody knows when or how the GAA season will begin or what it will look like, and that includes the GAA authorities in Croke Park.
In fairness to them, they can only go on information provided by the health authorities and the government, and that information is changing from day to day.
So here are the major problems facing the Carbery GAA Board as the new executive tries to make some kind of plans for a season that may never happen, or, if it does, may be seriously compromised by the rampant virus.
1. STARTING DATES – Definitely, the uncertainty as regards a starting date to the new GAA season is the biggest problem. Plans to begin the inter-county season in February have been well and truly scuppered. While restrictions in general are scheduled to be eased on March 5th, Taoiseach Mícheál Martin has stated categorically that getting the schools and building sites back in action will take priority and that doesn’t bode well for a start to the GAA season. Even if permission is given to inter-county teams to begin training on March 5th, there is no guarantee that club teams will receive permission at that time. The Cork County Board has planned to start the club leagues on the first weekend in April and the Carbery Board CCC decided to follow that lead and also begin leagues, if possible, on that weekend. Again, that will all depend on the health authorities. The uncertainty still remains.
2. LEAGUES – Running ordinary leagues this season is a non-runner because of the limited season and travel problems. That means the Carbery Board will have to plan leagues that contain less games and less travelling for clubs. It looks like being six teams in each group. Teams will be grouped geographically, which means there will be problems in matching standards in each group. The problem of holding league semi-finals or finals must also be discussed with the clubs but the time constraints mean that the top team in each group, on a specific closing date, may be declared the winner of that group. The issue of grouping dual clubs together, with football only clubs also grouped together, is a possibility.
3. U21 CHAMPIONSHIPS – A number of championships were not finished from 2020 and a decision must be made on whether to finish these competitions in 2021. The CCC of the Carbery Board had intended to finish the U21 football championships, already begun in 2020, this March before beginning the U21 championships for 2021 in April/May. Finishing last year’s U21 championships has now gone by the board as March is probably unavailable so those games would have to be put on the long finger until October, when, and if, the 2021 championships are finished. Priority will be given to 2021 U21 championships in April/May, if permission can be got to run club championships during the inter-county months. The problem of fitting in the U21 hurling championships must also be tackled.
4. JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS – It had been planned to begin the Junior A and B football and hurling championships towards the end of July, depending on how far the Cork senior teams advance in the All-Ireland championships, which were scheduled to be finished in July. Now that plan has been sunk by the delay to the start of the inter-county season. It looks as if the All-Ireland finals will run into August and that will delay all the club championships. When divisions are planning their junior championships, they usually work backwards from the dates laid down by the county board to have the divisional winners ready for interdivisional county championships. With no definite starting date there can be no closing date and everything is up in the air.
5. CHAMPIONSHIP FORMATS – At present it is intended to run off the A and B junior championships on a similar format to last season, with a backdoor system guaranteeing each team two games. However, if the championship season is really condensed, then serious consideration will have to go to reverting to a straight knockout championship for this one season. Dual clubs, in particular, will be looking at playing weekend after weekend if they are successful in both codes. It should be emphasised that the U21 championships, if they materialise, will have to be straight knockout this season.
6. CLUB GRADINGS – Clubs are reminded that the new championship format, as run by the Cork County Board in 2020, will begin in Carbery in 2022 and this season’s championships will be taken into account when grading the teams for 2022. It is intended to have 16 teams in the Junior A football in 2022, and eight in the Junior A hurling, Junior B football and Junior B hurling. This means a number of teams being relegated at the end of this season, a problem that that will be magnified by the availability of players this season. This matter will be fully discussed with the clubs at the upcoming board meeting online.
7. JUNIOR C AND D CHAMPIONSHIPS – Unlike the Junior and U21 championships, where the 2021 championships will be given priority, it is intended to finish the 2020 C and D championships before beginning the 2021 championships. Again the problem is time and holding the 2021 championships may have to be cancelled if not viable.
8. NEW GRADES – A problem which was unnecessarily dumped on the Carbery Board in the middle of all this uncertainty was the changing of the main underage grades to the odd year groups, U13, U15 and U17. This posed a huge problem for the junior boards on what to do with the 18 and 19 year olds in every club who may not get games at U21 level, or at adult level. There will be a big drop-out of these players if they do not get games and the board will have to look at ways to provide them with matches. A league for these developing players in June and July is being considered, under strict guidelines, and the clubs will be asked for their observations. This issue should have been held over until all this pandemic crisis was at an end.
9. FINANCE – Most clubs are suffering financially because of the pandemic and some are struggling badly to make ends meet. Their problems will have to be deeply and positively discussed at board level and solutions sought. The Carbery Board itself also suffered a big loss in 2020 and it looks possible that the loss will be even bigger in 2021. The main source of finance for the board is gate receipts and it looks as if it will be a long time before crowds are allowed to return to games, which will again severely hit board finances. The board is also very dependent on sponsorship and asking sponsors to commit to a very uncertain season is not an easy task. Thankfully, all sponsors stayed on board for the 2020 season but some serious talking will have to be done about the 2021 season.
10. COACHING – Plans for the 2020 season by Carbery GPO Paudie Crowley, GDA James McCarthy and Carbery coaching officer Charlie Wilson had to be severely curtailed because of lockdown and closed schools and they are now facing the same problems in 2021. Thankfully, we are all now more familiar with online coaching and this will help but on the ground coaching is still not possible. At present, foundation courses are proving very popular online, but the practical side of these courses must be held over until players and mentors are allowed back to the pitches.
- It is planned to hold a full Carbery board meeting online within the next two weeks to discuss the above problems with the clubs.