BY GER McCARTHY
THE SuperValu West Cork Schoolboys League will move to a March to November season, for the first time in its history, in 2018.
A proposal brought forward by the WCSL Committee - suggesting full compliance with an FAI directive on Recommendation 10 of the Player Development Programme by shifting to a ‘one-season calendar: March to November’ - was passed by club delegates at Tuesday night’s monthly meeting in the Arch, Dunmanway.
In a nutshell, the upcoming 2016/’17 Schoolboys campaign (which kicks off this weekend) will be the last of its kind, running concurrently with national and secondary schools’ semesters between the months of September and June.
The current WCSL plan is to organise a shortened season from September next year (2017) until the following March (2018) before running the first of a new FAI one-season calendar directive from the end of March until November 2018.
The proposal represents a seismic shift away from the traditional winter-spring schoolboys’ calendar but the changes, which will no doubt take a lot of getting used to, are necessary when one considers what has happened to the WCSL over the past couple of seasons.
Two and a half months of fixtures were lost during 2015/’16 to inclement weather and seven full weekends of games the season before. Climate change has seen our winters become progressively wetter and milder resulting in a year-on-year increase of mass postponements.
This, in turn, has made for chaotic endings to the last two schoolboys’ seasons as multiple fixtures lost to the winter months were shoehorned into the final weeks of the campaign. It is worth noting that last season’s weather-affected leagues, cups and shields didn’t conclude until the end of June, a full ten months after kicking off the previous September.
Add to that the deterioration of pitches shared with the West Cork League during the winter months and the result has been young soccer players dotted all over the region left idle for much of November, December and January until the weather and playing surfaces improved at springtime.
West Cork Schoolboys League soccer playing regular games from March to November will give players, coaches and supporters a much better chance of fulfilling their fixtures and in better weather conditions.
Other schoolboys’ leagues, in rural GAA strongholds such as Co Clare, have already made a successful transition to the March-November calendar and there is no reason the same change cannot work in West Cork.
Will it be seamless? Unlikely. Will there be a year or two of adjustments? Absolutely.
Yet, the bottom line is that this change was needed as West Cork schoolboys’ soccer was suffering badly over the past three years. It will take time, but moving to summer soccer should eventually prove a wise move.