Cork GAA CEO Kevin O’Donovan spoke to Denis HURLEY about the three proposals for Cork clubs
CORK County Board secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan is calling on clubs to exercise democracy and discuss the three proposals by which the county championships may run from 2020 onwards.
At Tuesday’s county board meeting in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, delegates were presented with three options for next year’s championship, with clubs given a week to consult before a vote is taken at a special meeting next Tuesday.
All three would see the creation of a fourth county championship grade, with the four tiers – Premier Senior, Senior A, Premier Intermediate and Intermediate – eventually consisting of 12 teams each, while there would, for a two-year period, be a fifth hurling tier, lower intermediate, to allow for a transition period, and 16 in the lowest football grade.
The first option is for three groups of four teams in each grade, playing one game in April and two in August; the second is four groups of three, with all games in August; and the third is for two groups of six, but with the ‘nuclear’ option of playing one or two games in May/June without county players, for half-points. There will also be a return of one-up, one-down automatic relegation.
The vote will take place on a proportional representation basis.
While keen to point out that the board’s executive are not endorsing any one of the options, O’Donovan stresses that the elements common to all are based on a consensus reached in a three-stage consultation process, where views from all stakeholders were sought.
‘The group format, reduced numbers in championships and automatic relegation were all things on which there was a consensus,’ he says.
‘However, we couldn’t get a consensus on the exact format so it’s only fair to send it back to the clubs.
‘Obviously, there is urgency in that we are already a week behind schedule, Tuesday’s meeting should have been last week.
‘The club championships are beginning the weekend of April 6th and 7th, so it’s essential to have this sorted before then, that teams will know the situation before they start with regard to relegation and different elements.
‘If it were to go beyond April 7th, it would go back 12 months, so what we’re saying is that it’s vital to mobilise everyone. If a club can’t meet to discuss such an important issue, then we’re in trouble.
‘The process here is almost as important as the result. We’re considering everything and consulting everyone. We have certainty on the core elements and we’ve sent back the parts on which we couldn’t reach certainty. We couldn’t be fairer than that.’
The possibility of clubs playing games without county players – defined as the 26 on the matchday panel for the most recent Cork game – would be a dramatic departure.
‘It’s radical,’ O’Donovan agrees, ‘it’s definitely a break from the norm, but it was a view put to us and it’s an alternative to not having any games in the summer.
‘It shows a different way of thinking, whereas the other two options are in line with changes a lot of other counties have made.
‘It’s something to throw into the mix to stimulate debate, I’m happy with all three options and can operate with whichever one is chosen.
‘This is something that came from the players’ generation and it deserves to be put on the table. It mightn’t be the majority view, it’s certainly an alternative, but there’s room for the smaller parties too.’
One by product of the changes is that there will be two clubs relegated from intermediate to junior this year.
‘To have a definite calendar, we needed to have defined numbers, and that means 60 in hurling and 52 in football,’ O’Donovan says.
‘We have 62 hurling and 54 football at the moment, so those numbers have to be reduced and that was made clear to the clubs.’
Another change which will result is that, if Cork is to have two senior and two intermediate grades, the winners of the first, third and fifth (junior A) levels will be progressing to the Munster club championships.
‘It’s not ideal,’ O’Donovan says, ‘but the alternative is that, if you relegated a lot more clubs to junior, divisional teams could be choosing from seven more clubs and winning the senior championship five years running.
‘It’s a conflict of interest, but our priority has to be to fix our own championships and, in any case, our junior teams have done well in Munster. That proves that there’s a great base within the county.
‘Where we’ve struggled is in the Munster club senior football and that’s no reflection on our teams but they’re just not battle-hardened.
‘I think you’d have the same teams winning whether it’s 12, 17 or 19 teams at senior, but what 12 teams gives you is a tougher battle. It’s a sacrifice that has to be made.’