Sports editor KIERAN McCARTHY details the unwanted saga that held up the 2022 Carbery Junior A Football Championship
IT was a small indicator of the confusion that followed. At 7.20pm on Sunday, July 24th, an email landed in the Southern Star Sport email. Ping. The subject line read ‘Bandon v Barryroe’. It’s author, Star GAA reporter John Murphy.
‘I travelled to Kilbrittain as directed, only to discover the game was off at the last moment as Bandon apparently could not field,’ he wrote.
An inconvenience for John that would, in the weeks that followed, mushroom into the unwanted saga of the summer in Carbery GAA.
It would also, as one person so eloquently described it last Friday night, develop into ‘a shitshow’. ‘Barryroe-gate’, quipped another. This was the talk of many parishes.
Thirty-seven days after Bandon conceded a walk-over to Barryroe in Roinn 1 of the 2022 Carbery Junior A Football Championship, the latter and Carbery GAA were engaged, via Zoom, in arbitration with the DRA (Disputes Resolution Authority) on Tuesday night (August 30th) to find a resolution to a messy situation that rocked and delayed the competition.
All four quarter-finals that were scheduled for last weekend had to be postponed. The championship was paused. The repercussions for that will be felt by clubs in the weeks ahead as a tight GAA calendar starts to squeeze. A mid-week divisional final is now one option, as the Cork JAFC quarter-finals start the weekend of September 23rd – but how did we end up here? Fasten your seatbelt.
This is the first year of the revamped Carbery junior championships. Hallelujah, as the winds of change shook up the division for the better. Sixteen teams lined up in the Junior A Football Championship. Four groups of four. The top two teams in each would advance to the quarter-finals. All so straightforward …
In Roinn 1, we had Argideen Rangers, Barryroe, Bandon and reigning champions Tadhg MacCarthaigh. Bandon conceded to Barryroe in their opening game, and the latter were awarded the points. Bandon then fielded, and lost, against Tadhg MacCarthaigh (1-20 to 1-3) and Argideen Rangers (0-12 to 0-8). This group went down to the final round of games. It was all to play for. Three teams battling for two qualification places. When Barryroe stunned Tadhg MacCarthaigh by 2-9 to 1-11 on August 14th, confusion and then controversy reigned, as three teams (Argideen Rangers, Barryroe and Tadhg MacCarthaigh) finished level on four points.
But only two teams could advance to the last eight. The walkover conceded by Bandon had repercussions. The Southern Star requested a statement from Carbery GAA, on August 16th, to outline how the final placings in Roinn 1 were then decided.
‘The procedure in that case is that the scoring differences would then decide which two teams would advance. As per the Official GAA Guide 2022, Bandon’s scoring difference was nullified and the scoring difference between the three remaining clubs (Tadhg Mac Carthaigh, Argideen Rangers and Barryroe) was taken into consideration,’ the statement explained.
‘At the end of this process Tadhg MacCarthaigh had a scoring difference of +1, Argideen Rangers had 0 and Barryroe had -1. Therefore both Tadhg MacCarthaigh and Argideen Rangers qualified for the quarter-finals.’
Tadhg MacCarthaigh advanced as Roinn 1 group winners. Argideen Rangers took the runner-up spot. Barryroe crashed out, on the tightest of scoring difference. One kick of a ball could have changed their season. Their championship campaign looked over – but here comes the twist. The Southern Star understands that Carbery GAA had made a slight error in the regulations issued to clubs before their divisional championships threw in. Carbery were working with general rule from 2019, which allowed for play-offs if a three-way tie ensued, but the updated 2022 general rule now says scoring difference should be used instead. Carbery then, correctly, applied the current general rules when deciding the final Roinn 1 placings.
The Southern Star understands that Barryroe’s grievance is that the club was not informed how, in the event of a three-way tie, scoring difference would apply to decide the final placings. But should the club itself have been more aware of the current, up-to-date rules?
Carbery GAA had not advised clubs prior to the final round of JAFC group games that scoring difference would instead apply in the event of a three-way tie, which was a real possibility in Roinn 1. (Perhaps that’s a learning to take; ahead of the final round of games in the county hurling championships last weekend, Cork GAA circulated an email detailing competition formats and how final placings in groups are decided. ‘Clubs are reminded that Rule 6.21 applies…’ Carbery should do likewise in future.)
Barryroe, like in their surprise win against Tadhg MacCarthaigh, rolled up their sleeves and fought their corner. The Southern Star reached out to Barryoe, but they kept their own counsel.
The club appealed their elimination from the Carbery JAFC to Cork GAA. That was heard at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Wednesday, August 24th. The appeal was not upheld. They found in Carbery’s favour. But there was another twist.
The county executive ‘strongly’ recommended that ‘in the interest of natural justice and fairness’ Barryroe should be reinstated in the competition ‘by means of a play-off.’
Recommended, not instructed. That’s a very notable difference. It kicked the ball back into Carbery’s court, as no definitive decision was reached. And so this rumbled on.
Barryroe was down, but they were not out. They had a lifeline.
Taking this on board, the Carbery CCC called a meeting with the three clubs affected in Roinn 1 – Tadhg MacCarthaigh, Argideen Rangers and Barryroe – on the following night, Thursday, August 25th, at the GAA Pavilion in Enniskeane to find a solution.
There was no white smoke. An agreement wasn’t found to suit all parties. No play-off as a route for Barryroe to get back in the game.
At 10.06am on Friday, August 26th, an email arrived in the Southern Star Sport email. Ping. Carbery CCC Statement read its subject line. It was the first of two Carbery GAA emails on a Frantic Friday. The main takeaway was that the Carbery JAFC, with quarter-finals fixed for the weekend, was progressing, as ‘the Barryroe appeal was not upheld’. There was no mention that the county executive had strongly recommended Barryroe be reinstated. Again, that was a recommendation, not a ruling.
Four huge quarter-finals were going ahead – or so we thought. St Mary's v Kilmacabea. Ballinascarthy v St James. Tadhg MacCarthaigh v Carbery Rangers. Randal Óg v Argideen Rangers. Frantic Friday had other ideas, as Barryroe didn’t throw in the towel.
9.47pm on Friday night. Ping. The second Carbery GAA email of the day confirmed that all four quarter-finals were postponed.
‘Due to the CLG Barra Rua requesting DRA arbitration, Re: their appeal against the Carbery Board to the County Executive not being upheld, we have decided to pause our Junior A football championship at this time,’ the latest statement read.
Barryroe were not going quietly into the night.
Important context, too, in terms of the prize on offer to this year’s Carbery JAFC winners. The new 12-team county premier junior football championship comes online in 2023. It will be made up of the eight divisional winners this year, including Carbery, and the bottom four sides in the 2022 Bon Secours IAFC. In past seasons a divisional winner needed to win the county series to earn promotion, but not this year. Winning your division, like Carbery, earns a golden ticket to the new county championship. But Barryroe discovered on Tuesday night that their JAFC campaign for 2022 is over. They lost their appeal to the DRA. For the second time, and like in their appeal to Cork GAA, the decision-makers found in Carbery’s favour. They applied the updated general rule when deciding the final placings in Roinn 1.
Another Carbery GAA email, titled DRA Hearing, brought the curtain down on this saga late on Tuesday. It landed at 11.36pm. Ping, for the final time. It confirmed Barryroe’s appeal ‘against the decision by the Carbery Board and the Cork County Executive was rejected by the hearing panel’.
The Carbery Junior A Football Championship will resume this weekend. Four quarter-finals. It’s time to get back to talking about football. The battle for glory. Pride of the parish. But the latter stages of this Carbery JAFC will be a rush, to try and meet the county deadline. A Tuesday night final under lights in Dunmanway on Tuesday, 20th, has been mooted, or will the county board agree to push it back to the following weekend? This will also hamper the Carbery footballers’ preparation ahead of their Cork Premier SFC quarter-final on September 17th or 18th. The 2022 Carbery Junior A Hurling Championship must also be pushed back. Think of the other six junior A teams outside of Tadhg MacCarthaigh and Argideen Rangers that have been affected by this too.
There is no real winner here.
Lessons must be learned from this, too. Rules will be tightened. Communication must improve.
But it’s full steam ahead with the Carbery JAFC now.