BY GER McCARTHY
WEST Cork Schoolboys League clubs voted for a return to their traditional September-May calendar season at a special General Meeting in Dunmanway on Tuesday night.
An FAI-SFAI (Schoolboys Football Association of Ireland) decision to run every schoolboy’ league in the country between March and November by the year 2020 saw the West Cork Schoolboys League (WCSL) abide by their governing body’s ruling and change from their traditional September to May format at last year’s AGM.
Then, a subsequent FAI-SFAI U-turn left leagues such as West Cork’s in limbo as many of the country’s larger and more urban schoolboys leagues decided not to change. That farcical situation saw the FAI-SFAI inform each league that they could decide themselves whether or not they wanted run their competitions in the summer or return to the traditional winter setup.
West Cork had already made the decision to start their new campaign in March 2019 and have it completed by the end of November prior to their governing bodies’ U-turn.
Moving to summer soccer was never going to be easy but the thought process behind it was that West Cork’s youngest players would get to play football in better weather conditions, on better pitches and have the option to reschedule postponed weekend games during midweek evenings. Whilst those beliefs came true they were not without issues.
An already bulging calendar of youths GAA, rugby, rowing, bowling and other school and sporting commitments meant many of the WCSL’s teams struggled to fit in training sessions let alone complete their matches. At various monthly meetings, club delegates expressed their concerns on the pros and cons of having moved to ‘summer soccer’. Subsequently, the WCSL Committee agreed to call a special General Meeting at the Arch Bar in Dunmanway to decide what was best for their league’s long-term future.
The committee asked delegates to vote on three options at last Tuesday night’s meeting:
A – Complete the current calendar year season and continue on with ‘Summer Soccer’ into 2020.
B – Return to ‘Winter Soccer’ in September 2020 - suspend the current season in late November 2019 and return in February 2020 to complete the season by the following May (at the latest).
C – A third option – suggested by Ardfield FC – was to end the current season at the earliest possible time available and immediately move to ‘Winter Soccer’.
That third option put to delegates would ensure that there was no necessity for teams to move up two age-grades in September 2020, i.e. this season’s U11s (small pitches) would miss out on U12 and begin playing at the U13 (full-sized pitches) age-grade next season.
The vote saw club delegates choose option B, a return to ‘winter’ soccer and the September to May calendar season format, by 21 votes to 19.
Following that, a compromise was made to complete the current season as quickly as possible. As a result, there will be no Shield competitions this year and the committee will seek to get as many of the league and cups completed as quickly as possible. A short mini-season will begin early in the new year and be completed by May before the WCSL returns to a brand new (full) season in September 2020. This decision means players currently playing U12 will get to play U13 for a short stint before moving on to U14 the following September.
A complicated situation, not of the West Cork Schoolboys League’s making, now has a plan to move forward.