WEST Cork’s defence of their county senior football championship title remains in the balance, according to the region’s chairman Brian Cotter.
Their involvement in the senior football championship depends on a motion that has been sent forward to the LGFA Special Congress, to be held at some point later in the year.
The motion centres around the number of teams allowed in the make-up of a divisional side as in its current guise the West Cork team exceeds the number set out in the LGFA official rulebook.
However, if the motion passes at Special Congress, then West Cork will be allowed to continue as they have been, once the clubs in the county agree – and that’s why the recent county board meeting that saw clubs vote in favour of the motion was encouraging.
However, if the in-person Special Congress is convened after the throw-in to this year’s county senior football championship then West Cork will not be able to defend their title.
‘This is not a West Cork motion but gets confused with the fact West Cork is currently the only division within the championship,’ West Cork LGFA Chairman Brian Cotter explains.
‘The motion is one that was sent by the Cork Ladies Board executive to Congress for the betterment of Cork ladies football. Now, it only centres on West Cork but may involve other divisions in the county going forward and would be open to all other counties, in terms of divisions, in the future.
‘This is the second time such a motion has been debated openly amongst clubs inside the last three years. Prior to the 2019 championship, there was a further meeting where some senior clubs brought up divisional participation as part of our championship. That motion was withdrawn on the night because of the groundswell of opinion that was against the removal of divisions.
‘That opinion was reiterated again at the last county board meeting by the number of Cork clubs who voted (45-18) overwhelmingly that divisions have a place in our championships, saying if that can be preserved, it should be.’
Why does a division belong in a senior GAA or LGFA club championship? It is a reasonable question being asked by those outside of Cork who don’t currently have or might not have ever had divisional set-ups.
‘That is a fair question and I and plenty of others are not blind to the other side of the argument,’ Cotter says. ‘I come from a senior club myself (Bandon), played football with the Imokilly division and lost a senior county hurling final (with Imokilly) to the Carbery division. Cork operates a divisional system because of the vast size of the county. It is almost impossible to run a county of this size without breaking it up into divisional fragments.
‘If you took West Cork out of last year’s championship, there would have been eight clubs at the senior grade. There are 83 clubs in Cork so that’s less than ten percent of individuals playing football at senior adult level in our county. That cannot be a help to Cork ladies inter-county football. That’s a massive amount of quality footballers unable to play at senior club level. If you take intermediate and junior A grades out of it, there are at least 75 percent of clubs currently playing at junior B or a lower grade of football in Cork right now.
‘Pushing those girls to play with divisions would improve the club, the player and the county. That is what divisions are all about. I can understand why that is difficult for senior clubs battling against an amalgamation of a number of other clubs but it has worked and benefitted Gaelic Games and not just the LGFA for years in Cork. Obviously, we in West Cork have a vested interest in the motion and would like to see it pass. As chairman of the West Cork LGFA Board, it is only right that everyone has their say on this (motion) in an open and democratic forum.’
The West Cork division’s senior ladies football team is at major crossroads. A motion that was passed at county level now goes forward to national congress. When that motion will be heard is the bigger question. The timing could have a major bearing on if or when West Cork next takes the field in a senior county championship.
The motion that has been sent forward to the LGFA’s national Congress was worded, voted and ratified by the executive of the Cork county,’ Cotter explains. ‘That motion went in at the end of January, in time to go on the Congress’s clár. There haven’t been many delegate meetings over the last 12 months due to Covid-19. Executives are empowered to ratify motions on behalf of clubs because of the lack of or ability to have meetings.
‘It was felt within Cork that it was still important for clubs to have their say even though the motion had already gone in. So, if the divisional motion not in keeping with what Cork’s clubs believed should happen then the Cork county board gave an undertaking they would withdraw it. So, another motion was passed to allow it to remain on the clár. In that clár, it pointed to that all issues of a contentious nature, which this is and requires debate, would be kept back for a special LGFA congress. That would be a more delegate-driven Congress as opposed to an online zoom one.’
The next LGFA special congress, where delegates will hopefully be present, will include motions from all over the country. Unfortunately, the March Congress was supposed to be the one where all LGFA motions, including the Cork divisional one, were to be debated and voted on. That is, until Covid-19 intervened.
‘We don’t know when the motion will be heard,’ Cotter admits. ‘What we do know is if it is not heard prior to the commencement of our Cork county championships, then divisions will not be able to participate. Right now, under rules, divisions are deemed not able to participate in club championships.’
There is no getting away from that fact or that emotions are running high on both sides of the debate. Yet, there is so much at stake, not for West Cork but the health, structure and future of Cork ladies football at senior level.
‘In the short term, I would like to the have this motion heard and debated prior to the return of clubs to this year’s club championships,’ Cotter says. ‘We don’t know if it will be heard in time this year. If that’s the case, then West Cork, or any other division for that matter, will not be able to participate in the 2021 senior championships. If it is heard and adopted next September then West Cork would be able to play in the 2022 championship. We would like for it to happen this year to give West Cork a chance to defend their title. In the same way that the Cork senior clubs have to accept the democratic nature of the motion being accepted, if the will of Congress is to not pass the motion then unfortunately, West Cork will have to accept that too. We work in a democratic system within Gaelic games and do our business in the open for everyone to listen to and debate. When it goes well for you, great, but if it goes against you and others are not behind you, then you have to deal with