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 Barry Dennehy, Blarney, takes on Jeremiah Hurley, Carbery, in the Premier 1 MHC this season. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Barry Dennehy, Blarney, takes on Jeremiah Hurley, Carbery, in the Premier 1 MHC this season. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
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Cork GAA strategy aims to keep games relevant across all age groups

AN important element of the impressive and ambitious three-year Cork GAA plan comes under the Games headline.

The goal is to increase participation and improve performance across all age grades and levels.

The strategy is to ensure a programme of regular meaningful games for all teams in county championships and leagues.

And to ensure the co-ordination and development of all aspects of hurling and football from child to adult across the three key areas of club, school and county.

The plan calls for the creation of two three-person committees for both codes, comprising Diarmuid O'Donovan, the senior administrator, who will monitor and advise the executive, starting in June of next year.

Its success will be based on three aspects, the greater integration of county teams and the club fixtures' programme, the greater accommodation of the demands of dual clubs in county championships and the strongest panel of players available to represent Cork in all grades at all times.

For now, we'll focus on the challenges confronting clubs and the board in providing fit-for-purpose championships.

I had a quick chat with Diarmuid after Monday night's launch at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and, as usual, he had some interesting things to say about the way forward.

“This time it's more a scheduling matter. The next major review will be coming up in 2019, which will be in the remit of the current programme anyway.

“We must decide then how best to move on. We've expanded our programme to 19 championships now to cater for our very large clubs to the one-team club at junior C level.

“We've got to figure out what's the best way to progress them forward and what's the best time of year to play games (mindful of the Super 8s),” he said.

Noel O'Callaghan, Pat Horgan, and Diarmuid O'Donovan at the launch of the Cork GAA strategic plan 2018-2020. Picture: Gavin Browne
Noel O'Callaghan, Pat Horgan, and Diarmuid O'Donovan at the launch of the Cork GAA strategic plan 2018-2020. Picture: Gavin Browne

It's accepted, whether widely or otherwise, that the senior championships, particularly in football, need urgent addressing.

The common complaint is that there are too many teams and some of them do not meet the required standard, thereby impacting on the quality of the championship.

Major surgery is needed.

“Personally, I wouldn't think we're happy with the quality. The latter stages are fine. I ask the question would a team ranked 23 o24, whatever the figure, have any chance of winning a championship? Would you be far better off tightening that up?

“In football, in particular, there seems to be lack of competition in the earlier rounds.

“I know we got two great finals (senior and premier intermediate) and reasonable semi-finals, but the public seem to be voting with their feet in the earlier rounds in that the games are not attracting huge crowds.

“If we reduce the numbers in these competitions, which might be the right thing to do over time, do we then have knock out competitions or round-robins. What improves things?

“You will have a knock on effect further down in the other grades. Say a club goes back to junior. Will the division be able to cater for their playing demands?

“What we want is for very club to play a certain number of games, 14 for a single playing club and 28 or 30 for a dual club.

“Players should have those available to them at all times. Some divisions can cope, others can't.

“This season we had 102 senior hurling and football championship matches together, including the relegation games.

“A round-robin would have us playing 90-odd games and putting the divisions and colleges into one round would reduce the number as well.” 

Diarmuid referred back to An Ghaeltacht's win over Mallow. “They are reckoned to be the ninth best club in Kerry, but our champions, Mallow, and beaten finalists, St Michael's, had long runs in hurling too. 

"We have more players and more teams because of our 400,000 population to their 180,000. There are different challenges for us," Diarmuid concluded.