BY DENIS HURLEY
THERE was no doubting the headline occurrence from a West Cork point of view at Tuesday night’s Cork County Board draws for 2020.
For the first time since the mid-1980s, a round-robin group stage will be in operation, with teams playing one game in April and the championships then resuming in the summer, dependent on the availability of inter-county players.
The various new grades – premier senior, intermediate A, premier intermediate and intermediate A in hurling and football, with an additional lower intermediate level in hurling – were determined based on performances over the past four seasons and each comprises 12 teams, apart from intermediate A football, which has 16.
The Carbery division has five of the 12 premier senior sides and four of those – Carbery Rangers, Castlehaven, Newcestown, Ilen Rovers – were drawn together in Group 2, making for 12 West Cork derbies before the knockout stages commence next autumn.
In 2019, Newcestown beat Ilen at the quarter-final stage to reach the semi-finals for the first time, the only Carbery side to do so. Ross and the Haven had been eliminated by that stage but the pair did compete in one of the games in the year, Ross prevailing after extra time in the second round, both teams having lost their opening outings.
Clonakilty, the other western side in the top tier, will face St Finbarr’s, Ballincollig and Carrigaline, while the remaining group consists of Valley Rovers with a city trio, the champions Nemo Rangers, Douglas and Bishopstown.
In Senior A, O’Donovan Rossa were drawn with St Nicholas, and two sides up from premier intermediate in St Michael’s, Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh. Bantry Blues are also up and they were drawn with PIFC champions Éire Óg, Mallow and Kiskeam, while Dohenys and Bandon feature in the third group along with Fermoy and Clyda Rovers.
Castletownbere will compete in the new premier intermediate football, their group including Newmarket, Na Piarsaigh and Aghada, while Gabriel Rangers, the IFC finalists this year, face Macroon, Kanturk and Nemo’s second team.
In hurling, Bandon’s hurlers were kept separate from Newcestown in Senior A due to the gradings, which acted as a seeding system. Both were top seeds and the Lilywhites will play Charleville, Mallow and Fermoy while Newcestown will take on Killeagh, Kanturk and Cloyne.
There are two Carrigdhoun derbies in the premier intermediate hurling. Courcey Rovers and Carrigaline will clash in a group that also includes Aghada and Youghal, while Valley Rovers and Ballinhassig were drawn with Watergrasshill and Ballincollig.
Argideen Rangers are the sole West Cork representatives in intermediate A hurling and have been drawn with Kildorrery, Mayfield and Dungourney. Meanwhile, in the lower intermediate hurling, Kilbrittain and Barryroe will do battle in a group that also includes Ballygarvan and Russell Rovers, the 2019 junior A champions.
In premier senior, the top two in each group will advance to the quarter-finals, with the best and second-best third-placed sides playing each other for a quarter-final spot and the remaining third-placed side playing the divisions/colleges winner for the other quarter-final place
In senior A, premier intermediate, intermediate A hurling and lower intermediate hurling, the top two in each group and the best third-placed side qualify for the quarter-finals, with the second- and third-best third-placed teams playing off for the last place. In intermediate A football, the top two in each of the four groups advance to the quarter-finals.
In all grades, the sides finishing bottom in each group will enter relegation play-offs.
The teams in lower intermediate hurling will have two opportunities to escape the grade before it is burned off. At the end of 2020, one team will be relegated to junior but the junior A champions will be promoted straight to the fourth grade, intermediate A, along with the lower intermediate winners. Two teams will be relegated from intermediate A to lower intermediate next year.
Then, in 2021, the lower intermediate and junior A champions will be promoted to intermediate A with two sides relegated from intermediate A to junior A along with the remaining 11 sides in lower intermediate.
This will facilitate 48 hurling teams across four grades from the start of 2022, and it will also be the case in football as the intermediate A grade is reduced from 16 to 12 teams by the end of 2021.
Premier SFC – Group 1: St Finbarr’s, Ballincollig, Clonakilty, Carrigaline; Group 2: Carbery Rangers, Castlehaven, Newcestown, Ilen Rovers; Group 3: Nemo Rangers, Valley Rovers, Douglas, Bishopstown.
SAFC – Group 1: O’Donovan Rossa, St Nicholas, St Michael’s, Béal Áthan Ghaorthaidh; Group 2: Kiskeam, Mallow, Éire Óg, Bantry Blues; Group 3: Dohenys, Fermoy, Clyda Rovers, Bandon.
Premier IFC – Group 1: Newmarket, Na Piarsaigh, Castletownbere, Aghada; Group 2: Naomh Abán, Cill na Martra, St Vincent’s, Knocknagree; Group 3: Macroom, Kanturk, Nemo Rangers, Gabriel Rangers.
IAFC – Group 1: Millstreet, St Finbarr’s, Glenville, Ballinora; Group 2: Rockchapel, Dromtarriffe, Ballydesmond, Kinsale; Group 3: Mitchelstown, Glanworth, Mayfield, Adrigole; Group 4: Aghabullogue, Kildorrery, Glanmire, Kilshannig.
Premier SHC – Group 1: Midleton, Sarsfields, Douglas, Ballyhea; Group 2: Blackrock, Erin’s Own, Bishopstown, Newtownshandrum; Group 3: Glen Rovers, St Finbarr’s, Na Piarsaigh, Carrigtwohill.
SAHC – Group 1: Newcestown, Killeagh, Kanturk, Cloyne; Group 2: Bandon, Charleville, Mallow, Fermoy; Group 3: Ballymartle, Bride Rovers, Fr O’Neills, Kilworth.
Premier IHC – Group 1: Courcey Rovers, Carrigaline, Aghada, Youghal; Group 2: Valley Rovers, Ballinhassig, Watergrasshill, Ballincollig; Group 3: Inniscarra, Blarney, Castlelyons, Blackrock.
IAHC – Group 1: Kildorrery, Mayfield, Dungourney, Argideen Rangers; Group 2: Éire Óg, Sarsfields, Meelin, Douglas; Group 3: Cloughduv, Aghabullogue, Glen Rovers, Midleton.
Lower IHC – Group 1: Kilbrittain, Barryroe, Ballygarvan, Russell Rovers; Group 2: Castlemartyr, St Finbarr’s, Ballymartle, Milford; Group 3: Tracton, St Catherine’s, Grenagh, Dripsey.