Cork clubs vote to play one round in April and two rounds in August
BY DENIS HURLEY
CORK County Board secretary Kevin O’Donovan was delighted to see democracy in action as clubs decided to go with Option A for the county championships from 2020 onwards.
Faced with a choice between three, the April/August system, with three groups of four teams in each of the four grade, was a resounding winner . The final vote of 136 votes for Option A – with games in April and August – compared to 52 for Option C and just 33 for Option B (an August start) was emphatic.
O’Donovan felt that it sent a message, while also noting the support for Option C, which would have seen clubs play without their county players.
‘I think the process worked,’ he said, ‘I think the clubs engaged, their delegates spoke and expressed the views of their members on the floor.
‘I’m delighted with the outcome as well – I had no dog in the race, I was happy with all proposals. There is clearly a desire to have the one game in April and to have county players available for all club championship games.
‘But, there was a little signal, with almost quarter of the vote going to C, that people are not fully happy with the world we’re constrained in and there’s a huge appetite for summer games.
‘Playing those without inter-county players is off the table but there is a need now for us to look at our leagues and provide games through some other format. Across all A, B and C, there was a huge desire for summer games.’
Whichever of the three options was chosen, it was a step in the right direction as O’Donovan pointed out that there were parts common to all.
‘The core elements of more competitive championships, relegation, group games, giving greater certainty to the clubs with regard to fixtures, those were all our non-negotiables,’ he said.
‘Whatever format we brought, they were going to be part of it because the message coming back was too strong to ignore.
‘I’m delighted with that and what we were trying to do with that was take one bound to catch up with what is established practice in other counties and then giving the clubs the option to see if they wanted to take two bounds. They said one bound was enough for now.’
Going for Option C would have been seen as especially radical, but O’Donovan believes that the support shown for that was a signal that the plight of club players is being recognised. The primacy of the club player was on everybody’s agenda, whichever of the three options they voted for,’ he said.
‘We have constrained choices, we didn’t have the option to put five games across the summer with inter-county players available, we have to be realistic that the inter-county programme is there.
‘There is definitely a mandate in Cork to consider how they vote on future inter-county championship proposals.
‘It was also interesting to see what a low vote B got, and that’s standard practice in a lot of counties, wait until the county championships are finished. For us to wait that long would be detrimental, so that’s off the table for a long time.’
Delegates also had a choice as to how the gradings should be determined, opting for results over a four-year period rather than just the outcomes of 2019.
‘The decision on the grading was to choose performances this year along with some element of performances from the last three years, as opposed to just going on 2019 championship performance alone,’ O’Donovan said.
‘The nuance in that is that, by performing well on the field this year, clubs can get to the level they want to. But, if they get a draw and things go wrong, it does recognise the performances of the last three years in championship.
‘Let nobody be any doubt that it will be all on the field of play, hard-fought championship games. Clubs need have no fear that, if they go out and perform this year, they’ll get to the grade they want.’
O’Donovan’s positive reaction was echoed by that of county chairperson Tracey Kennedy. She acknowledged that a perfect solution hadn’t been found but was happy that it was a step in the right direction.
‘We haven’t solved all the problems, by any manner of means,’ she said.
‘What we hope we have is an improvement on what we had, that’s what we were aiming for.
‘What we should have is more competitive championships with the smaller competitions, that’s also quite a big change.
‘There’s an extra game with the group stages but, other than that, it’s not a massive change to what we have now. You’re still going to have the issue of an empty summer and the challenge now is for us and the clubs to come up with a solution to use that.
‘We’d love a situation where clubs took our leagues more seriously. We’ve been striving to achieve that and there have been some changes this year, we hope now that that gap can be used in a more meaningful way. That’s our challenge now.’