FORMER All-Ireland winning Cork player and manager Conor Counihan is concerned that divisions are no longer competitive enough in the county senior football championship.
‘When it comes to divisions, if we can’t do it right then we shouldn’t do it,’ Counihan told The Southern Star.
‘You would have to say that as of today, there are only a few divisions, most notably Duhallow, able to compete when it comes to the Cork football club championship. The others, in some cases, are just fulfilling fixtures.
‘That’s hugely disappointing to me because, historically, divisions have been good for Cork football. Previously, representing your division was an opportunity for junior club players to play at a higher level. Also, it was an important way for those players to get noticed by Cork management and the chance at an inter-county career. ‘The huge demands on the modern-day junior and intermediate club player are making it more and more difficult. In a nutshell, we need to take a serious look at divisions. Do it right or don’t do it at all. That’s the challenge.’
Avondhu (2016 senior county semi-finalists) and Duhallow (2017 and 2020 senior county semi-finalists, 2018 and 2019 senior county runners-up) show what’s possible when divisions get their act together and have support of their local clubs. Cork's Project Co-ordinator for Football Counihan is not denying that but his point remains that, aside from Duhallow, few other divisions or colleges look capable of making a similar kind of impact in the Cork Premier SFC.
‘What might be driving that is clubs are maybe being more reluctant in allowing their players line out for their divisions,’ Counihan said.
‘An increasingly congested fixture-list isn’t helping divisions either and that is a major part of the issue. As a result, more and more clubs have difficulty releasing their players. Things have changed dramatically in terms of the GAA’s structure and championships over the past 18 months because of Covid. I do think the split-season of club and inter-county is here to stay but the issue of releasing players for their division will remain.
‘Similarly for colleges, they have been a bit hit and miss as well recently, which is a worry. That’s as disappointing to see as it is with the divisions. Colleges have produced a lot of good players and teams down through the years but again, clubs within and outside the county have pulled players from them.
‘There have been times that very different college line-ups have featured in the opening round and then at the third round or quarter-finals. That has brought an imbalance to the club championship.’