BY DENIS HURLEY
FORMER Cork minor football manager Donal O’Sullivan has decried what he calls the ‘everybody gets a medal’ approach in terms of revamping the county junior football championship, and would like to see a system similar to that used in Kerry.
The next Cork County Board meeting looks set to pass a proposal to admit teams beaten in divisional finals into the county championship along with the champions.
This would mean a 16-team county in football, though it remains to be seen what will transpire in the hurling – Beara’s absence had led to the notion of two ‘wildcard’ picks by the board’s Competitions Control Committee, but that idea has proven unpopular.
O’Sullivan believes that clubs in strong footballing divisions will relish the opportunity for extra representation at county level, but points out that the change could be the death-knell for the Beara JAFC.
Glengarriff’s re-grading to junor B level for 2016 meant that there were just two clubs in the junior A championship, Garnish and Urhan.
‘If this change happens, you’d have to wonder what’s the point of a junior championship at all?’ O’Sullivan asks.
‘The junior championships in the divisions would become totally devalued. It might be okay for Carbery or Duhallow, where you have a lot of strong junior teams, but there should be a reward for being the best in your division.
‘I think we’ve come to the stage where we have to accept that people will lose and forget about unlimited back doors. This “everyone gets a medal” doesn’t help anyone, there are presentations on every day of the week and they become worthless.’
O’Sullivan feels Cork wouldn’t have to look too far for inspiration.
‘The structure in Kerry is strong, and we shouldn’t be afraid to copy something that clearly works.
‘In Kerry, if you’re relegated, that’s it, you know you’re not going to be readmitted at the end of the year. Relegation doesn’t have to be a bad thing – it can be the kick in the backside needed, for someone to say, “Things haven’t been good enough”, and to want to do something to fix it.
Having been in charge of his native Castletownbere last year, O’Sullivan is well acquainted with the challenges facing sides in Beara. He still holds out hope for divisions, but points out that the county board must pay more than lip-service.
‘Twenty years ago, Beara would have had six players on the Cork panel, and they got exposure from playing for Beara at U21 and senior level,’ he says.
‘The economic situation has been a factor in the lack of numbers but last year we had four clubs forfeit league points to us rather than travelling to play. We need assistance and I think that leadership must come from the county board, from the chairman down.
‘Avondhu showed last year what a division can achieve with a bit of organisation and effort, but they got caught then with the fixtures and I think that divisions need to be accommodated as they can still fulfil a very valuable role, but support is needed.’