ORLA Finn has welcomed the revamp to the 2020 TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship structure.
Next season, the All-Ireland series will have two groups of six teams, and the top two from each group will progress to the All-Ireland semi-finals. It means each county will have a minimum of five games each.
This new format replaces the All-Ireland Group Stage (that consisted of four groups of three teams) and the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Cork star attacker Finn, who recently picked up her second All-Star award, is looking forward to the new set-up and pointed out that the strength of panels will be even more important in 2020.
‘It’s a big change and it will make it really competitive,’ the Kinsale woman said.
‘You will have to perform in your group if you want to make it to the last four.
‘It could be a change for the better. I felt in the last few years, depending on what group you were placed in, there were a few mismatches, so in 2020 we will have five games in a row.
‘That will give players a chance to show what they can do and because the schedule will be so demanding, we will have to use our panel so players know they will get an opportunity to play and that will keep an edge in training and keep it competitive.’
Because of the All-Ireland series revamp, provincial championships must be organised on a knock-out basis, with the winners seeded in the draw for the All-Ireland series. The bottom team in each group will contest a relegation play-off, unless they are a provincial winner, and thereby exempt from relegation.
Realistically, Cork won’t have any relegation worries in 2020, instead they’ll be one of the fancied tips to end Dublin’s dominance after the Sky Blues clinched the three-in-a-row this season, beating the Rebels in the All-Ireland semi-final in August by 2-11 to 0-11.
Finn, who was joint top scorer in the 2019 senior championship, has put that disappointment behind her.
‘I have parked that,’ she says.
‘We just have to concentrate on next year and see what we can do differently, maybe make a few changes here and there. Last season I thought we worked really hard and I think we need to work that bit harder again next year, to get to where we want to.
‘Even though we didn’t get to a final last season, we did improve a good bit from the year before so if we can take a few more steps forward, we’ll be in the mix to getting back to Croke Park next season.’
After Ephie Fitzgerald’s u-turn, he is back in the manager’s seat for 2020, along with his revamped management team of Michael Twohig, Paddy O’Shea, Jo Shirkie, and Michelle Dullea.
‘It’s always good to get new ideas and different voices, they might see things differently, and even for players they might feel they have an opportunity to express themselves in front of new trainers so that might help us,’ says Finn, who is already looking ahead to the new season.
Cork will begin the defence of their Division 1 league title at the end of January, and this year the prolific Finn scored 1-55 in the league as Cork won the crown, with the Kinsale woman scoring 0-5 in the final against Galway and also named on the Division 1 Lidl Team of the National League.
‘The season finished earlier than I had hoped for with Cork and Kinsale so I have had a good break for the last few months, so come January when we are back fully on the pitch I will be ready to go,’ she says, as her season finished on a high note with a second All-Star award.
‘It’s lovely to win an All-Star, especially in a year where you don’t win an All-Ireland final or don’t even get to one. Even to get nominated is lovely, and to win is a nice positive at the end of the year and it gives you a buzz going into the new season.’