NEMO Rangers manager Larry Kavanagh believes a bloated 27-team Cork senior football championship is no longer as competitive as it could be and that divisions days are numbered.
Kavanagh is stepping away from the Cork SFC scene following his final game in charge of Nemo Rangers – the All-Ireland club final appearance against Corofin on St Patrick’s Day.
The 2018 Cork SFC throws in this month, but in terms of overall quality and competitiveness, Kavanagh is not convinced.
‘I don’t think our championship is competitive when you consider there are something like 27 teams including divisions and colleges involved in it from the start,’ Kavanagh told The Southern Star.
‘Realistically, at the start of any given year, and I don’t say this in a bad way, but there must be 18 of those (teams) that you can right off as potential champions straight away. That’s just being honest about it and it is not doing those clubs any good in the long run either.
‘Looking at the national inter-county scene, there are 32 counties competing for the Sam Maguire but there are a maximum of six or seven squads capable of actually lifting the trophy.
‘I really think that the Cork County Board needs to go back and revisit the championship structure again because it is becoming an increasing nightmare to create fixtures.
‘Look at Kerry, there are only eight or ten senior teams down there so all the players and supporters get more high profile club matches.’
It is worth noting that it is the Cork clubs themselves that asked the county board for increased numbers at each grade, senior, premier intermediate and intermediate through promotion and relegation.
Kavanagh doesn’t want to deny any club the opportunity to compete at senior level but believes that dropping down a grade and regrouping before having a proper crack off the Cork SFC is better than just surviving year on year in what is now a bloated competition.
‘From Cork clubs’ point of view, some are going to have be honest with themselves, write off playing at senior and move back down to a lower grade,’ the Nemo Rangers manager stated.
‘Some clubs would be better off winning a lower grade and coming back up better prepared to play at the top level.
‘I don’t think there is any disgrace in doing that because if you are not good enough at senior, you are not good enough. Circling the wagons and bouncing back from a lower grade can actually be more beneficial to a club in the long run, that’s all I’m saying.’
Trimming the Cork SFC down a more acceptable number of participants inevitably raises the question about division’s ongoing involvement in a club competition.
‘I will not be popular for saying this but I just don’t see a future for divisions in club football,’ Kavanagh said.
‘In years gone by, any junior player that was good enough deserved a chance at playing in senior competitions and divisions were brilliant for providing that opportunity.
‘Since the introduction of provincial and All-Ireland championships at junior and intermediate level, players can now experience a higher level of competition inside and outside their own county without the need to represent their division.
‘This is just my own personal opinion, but I think that divisions are just compounding an already difficult situation in trying to trim down the senior football championship.
‘In saying that I have always had the height of respect for the divisional sides we came up against and hated playing them as a manager because you just never knew who they were going to have out on any particular day.
‘That’s the biggest problem for them (division) now as clubs want their junior, intermediate and premier intermediate players for themselves and who can blame them?
‘The main point I’m making is that a division can knock out a club team but might only have six or seven of that same team available to them the next day out.’