18 Irish Examiner Tuesday, 4.08.2020 Sport How can club players give this up? County players already at loose end C LUB players of Ireland, these are your halcyon days. The stage is yours, the summer is yours and in most cases you can set your watch by your fixtures list. You have it so good that Wexford selector and Bruff clubman Seoirse Bulfin had a point last week when he asked where was the positivity from the Club Players Association (CPA). There are snags, of course. Teams knocked out of a championship in the space of six days as was the case in Waterford and Wexford is not healthy but in this abbreviated season of seasons there are going to be fall guys and the experiences thus far have largely been positive. However, the CPA know what we’re experiencing right now is not reality. There is nothing to suggest from Croke Park that 2021 won’t revert to what was supposed to happen this year. September’s Special Congress, which was to focus on fixtures, has likely been parked for 2020. GAA director general Tom Ryan more or less confirmed the third year of the Super 8 along with the Tailteann Cup will take place next summer. But they also know there is an opportunity here. Club players have rarely had it better and they have been articulating that. Going by the conversations we have had with them these last few weeks both on and off the record, they could get used to this, championship football and hurling when the evenings are still long and the ball is hopping off the ground. What seems most important to them is the absolute certainty provided by the revised fixtures lists. From Austin Stacks’ Kieran Donaghy bemoaning the GAA’s inability to put forward a definitive list until now to Jamie Burns in St Finbarr’s, who as a dual player appreciates that he can plan ahead properly to Loughmore-Castleiney chairman Eugene Stapleton, who likes that the scheduling of their games aren’t dictated by Tipperary’s fortunes, club people are enjoying themselves. The iron is most definitely hot hence why the CPA Weekend three of the GAA’s project restart and already there are casualties, three of the 16 out of the Waterford senior hurling championship — Ballysaggart, Clonea and Tallow — and three of the 12 teams exiting the Wexford SHC — Cloughbawn, Fethard, and Rathnure. At least there is no relegation in either but after Ballysaggart’s heavy defeat to Abbeyside on Saturday it will be 45 days before Stephen and Kieran Bennett can train again with Waterford. Stephen was carrying an injury in that game and another county panelist, Thomas Ryan, was forced off as Tallow bowed out so it could provide some welcome respite. In Wexford, the break will give Rapparees’ Liam Ryan time to recover from his broken foot but his clubmate Kevin Foley is left waiting until September 14, the official start date for inter-county collective training, as is Fethard’s Michael Dwyer. With the senior quarter-finals taking place in Wexford next weekend, several more inter-county players will be without hurling although many will soon be diverting their attention to the football club championship. The split season put forward by Wexford and Waterford affords dual players the chance to concentrate on both codes whereas because of the alternate system some in Cork have felt compelled to focus on one code. What’s to stop those county hurlers at a loose end until September 14 meeting up for a few pucks? Nothing, you might think, but then it’s not that simple. Collective training is defined as “where one or more player(s) is/are required to be at a specific place at a specific time on a specific date.” A case of damned if they do and damned if they don’t? struck with that strongly-worded statement last week. “The GAA is currently in the middle of a very dangerous atmosphere which needs to be addressed immediately and certainly in advance of 2021,” they warned. “If a satisfactory set of fixtures cannot be agreed then this totally unnecessary and poisonous atmosphere will further escalate and damage our Association even further.” To go back to the way it was would be a massive letdown for club players. That’s not to say what is happening now can be replicated or that it is even preferable. Club players enjoy downtime in summer. Giving up some of it so they are able to holiday in the best weather as much as compete in it is not something they would mind. The shorter season, already supported by inter-county players, also seems to find favour in the club scene where older players have been attracted by the truncated pre-season and steady flow of games. In his late 30s, Donaghy admits the condensed nature of the 2020 club season was part of what convinced him to line out once more for Stacks’ seniors. At the age of 43, Dan Shanahan has begun his 28th season for Lismore. Now 39, John Mullane came out of club retirement eight years ago to tog out for De La Salle’s junior B team. Shanahan doesn’t intend stopping any time soon but the snappy schedule of the Waterford championship period would have appealed to him as it would have Mullane to dust off his hurley and helmet. If the inter-county season is too long, which it is, then the club season leaves players waiting around too long. If the pandemic has offered up a positive, it has hopefully made GAA authorities appreciate that keeping club players occupied and delivering them certainty is essential. Speaking to this newspaper last month, GAA sage and Kerry’s longtime Central Council delegate Gerald McKenna nailed the issue with the Super 8s. “We increased the number of games and yet at the same time we squeezed the amount of time in which they were to be played. Now, you could either do one or the other but you couldn’t do both at the same time because in doing that you were affecting the amount of time that was available for the club scene.” To optimise the experience for clubs, the Super 8s must be jettisoned and there has to be more synchronicity in the inter-county season, that is more counties exiting the championship at the same time while the gap between the bulk of counties going out and the finalists is reduced. That there is almost full three months between the first teams being knocked out and the All-Ireland final feels sinful. The summer must be shared. It is most ironic that playing Gaelic games has become more attractive because of a highly contagious virus. Anyone believing otherwise is out of touch. Cork’s new system will bear fruit Cork’s blue riband hurling competition has been made leaner and meaner but nobody should be expecting fireworks just yet. The gulf in class between Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s on Saturday evening was hardly an advertisement for the new premier senior championship but the format will need time to bed down. Besides, in a hectic schedule the demands of being a dual club are that more acute for the Barrs. It should also be taken into account that in the five other PSHC clashes over the weekend, the average winning/losing margin was just 2.6 points. It didn’t help that also on national TV the night before, Ballyhale Shamrocks and Tullaroan played out a captivating game. However, the similarly sized 12-club Kilkenny senior champion- ship is long established. In the next two or three seasons, the benefits of stratifying the Cork championships will be reaped. Consider how ready the senior A winners will be for premier senior in 2021 when it boast teams who have contested the last three All-Ireland intermediate finals, 2017-18 winners Kanturk, Charleville, and Fr O’Neills who were so unlucky not to beat Tullaroan in the AllIreland intermediate club final in January. With that amount of potential challenging to push up into premier senior, it stands to reason that the competitiveness will improve. A little help from referees in easing up on the whistle wouldn’t go astray either but starting with Imokilly having their work cut out for them in doing the four in a row, the standard in Cork club hurling should soon be on the rise. ■ John Fogarty Email: email@example.com ■ Who claimed local bragging rights when father and son clashed? team were relegated to this season. Four years ago, Mullagh and Kiltormer chose to amalgamate at U14 level and won a county B1 title. They are now joined at all juvenile grades up to U21. Living in Laurencetown, Kiltormer, it was just as striking for Duane to face players he would have managed through the years as it was opposing his son. “I coached all the young lads up along and had a hurley in my hand the whole time so I just kept playing junior C with the lads for a bit of fun, to keep it going. From U10s, I would have been over Dylan and his friends’ team,” Ray said. “We didn’t have any contact in the game whatsoever although there was good banter before the match. Shauna, my daughter, was also there as well and she plays camogie for Kiltormer so they got a great kick out of it. “It was the first time really that the young lads played against each other after playing alongside each other the whole way up. Our Junior C team would train with the Kiltormer-Mullagh minor team so it’s an unusual one but it’s about having the numbers in training. If the two clubs didn’t come together to field teams we would be really struggling. Hopefully into the future the clubs will be able to bring through enough players to adult level and keep going for as long as possible.” As a half-forward, Ray Duane made his senior debut for Galway in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary, Éanna Ryan scoring a first-half goal after Duane’s shot had initially hit the post. He was also on the team that lost to Tipp at the same stage two years later before he won an Oireachtas medal with the Tribesmen in 1993. He puts down his longevity simply to the social aspect of hurling. “When you go out to play, you obviously go out to do your best and you just try and keep fit and stay healthy. It’s something you enjoy, it’s like therapy as such. It’s nice to get out there in the evenings with the lads, even the half an hour afterwards and having a chat. “It isn’t all about playing but meeting friends and keeping in contact with people. Otherwise, you might just be meeting work colleagues and stuck at home. We don’t take it too seriously but when you’re out there, there’s a competitive edge.” As well as Kiltormer, Duane’s daughter Shauna has played intermediate camogie for Galway and claimed minor and U16 All-Irelands. His niece is senior star Aoife Donohue, who landed an All-Ireland title and a third All-Star last year. Five years ago, Donohue guided Mullagh to an All-Ireland senior club final. John Fogarty Mullagh hosted an unusual occasion on Sunday as former Galway hurler Ray Duane lined out against his son Dylan. Ray, 52, was corner-forward on the Mullagh team in their Junior C championship game against neighbours Kiltormer featuring 18-year-old Dylan who was also playing at corner-forward. And while there was some bragging rights for Duane Snr as he was the only one of the pair to get on the scoresheet with a point, it was Dylan’s side which came out on top, 1-20 to 1-11. Along with 54-year-old Christy Curley and featuring in a side with an average age of 40, Duane was on the Mullagh third team that claimed Galway’s junior C1 championship last year. Duane scored 1-1 in the final win over Athenry, which sealed their promotion to junior C where Kiltormer’s second Ryan ruled out for up to 12 weeks after injuring shoulder Mourneabbey return to winning ways but count the cost of injuries Rugby health advice and guidelines upon his arrival back into the country from New Dragons had been in the market for former Leinster centre Joe Tomane, but the move for the Australian international stalled. Elsewhere, Dan Carter has conceded he might not appear for the Auckland Blues at all in Super Rugby Aotearoa, with the side only having one more game remaining in domestic competition. The former All Blacks fly-half, 38, signed for the Blues as injury cover and had been pencilled in on their bench for a July 18 match with the Wellington Hurricanes. Carter, however, suffered a calf strain and was forced to withdraw from the matchday squad. In a social media Q&A, he said his expectations of getting game time had been low in any case before the injury. “I wasn’t really expecting to (play), to be honest, unless there was an injury to Beauden (Barrett) or Otere (Black),” said Carter. “Both of those boys have been on fire over the past couple of months, so I’m happy to just contribute and helping out the team whatever way I can.” Carter added that his “old-man calves” were feeling good and he had done a bit of recent running, but he recognised that his injuries now take longer to heal than previously. The Blues have this week off before they finish the season against the Canterbury Crusaders on August 16, a potential title decider if the Christchurch-based side lose to the Otago Highlanders on Sunday. Cork in their final group game where a win for the divisional side would also put them into the semi-final. Mourneabbey Éire Óg Rory Noonan 0-15 0-10 Zealand. Meanwhile, Wales centre Jamie Roberts has signed for Dragons, returning to Welsh regional rugby after seven years away. Roberts returned home in April from his short stint with the Stormers in South Africa amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 33-year-old has already begun training with his Dragons team-mates. “When I left Wales in 2013 to play my rugby outside my home country, I always promised myself that I’d endeavour to return and play in Wales again,” said Roberts. The timing of Roberts’ signing, which is believed to be a one-year deal, will cause consternation with Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, and Scarlets, with all four regions currently discussing pay cuts with their players. It remains to be seen when the centre will play his first game for Dragons, with the region resuming the Guinness PRO14 campaign away at Ospreys on August 23 and then hosting Scarlets six days later. Roberts left Cardiff Blues in 2013 for Racing 92 in France and has since played for Harlequins and Bath in England, as well as the Stormers. He won the last of his 94 Wales caps in November 2017 and remains available for Test selection. Roberts also won three caps for the British and Irish Lions during the 2009 and 2013 tours. Colm O’Connor Ireland international James Ryan faces a three-month lay-off after sustaining a shoulder injury in training with Leinster. Leinster coach Leo Cullen confirmed yesterday that Ryan had undergone “a procedure to address the issue” and he expects the player to be out of action for up to 10-12 weeks. The news is a huge blow to the province ahead of this month’s restart of the Guinness PRO14 and a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final refixture against Saracens in the Aviva Stadium on September 19. The 24-year-old will then face a race to be fit for the recommencement of the Six Nations, with Ireland to face Italy on October 24 and France a week later to conclude the tournament which was stalled due to the Covid-19 lockdowns. Cullen has other concerns to contend with as the coach also reported that Adam Byrne suffered a hamstring injury and is due to have a procedure this week. He will be out of action for up to 12 weeks. One positive note for both the Leinster and Irish camps is that Dan Leavy is continuing to integrate gradually into rugby training after a significant multi-ligament knee injury. Leinster chiefs also confirmed that James Lowe returned to training last week having followed all government Aghada have set up a Group C decider against Inch Rovers in the Cork Ladies SFC after they convincingly defeated Fermoy by 5-9 to 1-10 in Fermoy yesterday afternoon. An impressive tally of 3-5 from former Cork senior Emma Farmer — with her hat trick of goals coming in the second half — helped inspire the East Cork club to an impressive 11-point win. And St Val’s edged out a keenly contested affair against Kinsale, with the Mid Cork club producing a determined display. Joanne Down was in red-hot scoring form in front of goal for Val’s. Despite Cork star Orla Finn’s best efforts, Kinsale were on this occasion to come up short. ■ Mourneabbey Cork Ladies SFC A top-class last 15 minutes helped Mourneabbey get their Cork senior ladies football championship back on track with a hard-fought win at their home ground yesterday. Éire Óg made it tough all through, but the experience of the All-Ireland champions — who drew with West Cork in their opening game — told in the end. Their big worry, though, is injuries picked up by Doireann O’Sullivan and Kate O’Brien to add to a number of players already ruled out. They will be hoping the three-week break ahead of the semi-final will be enough for all to recover. The impressive Ellie Jack opened the scoring for the hosts just 20 seconds in, with Emma Cleary equalising from a free on three minutes. From the restart she was unlucky not to goal, when she regained possession and her shot came back off the crossbar. Two more from Jack put her side back in front, with Emma Cleary setting up her sister, Laura, for Éire Óg’s second point. But Jack kept her side in control with two more, to make it 0-5 to 0-2 after 13 minutes. Back came Éire Óg with Shauna Cro- nin and Emma Cleary on target to put one between the sides. Jack was on target again, before points from Clodagh O’Connor and Emma Cleary had the sides level. But on the stroke of half-time, Niamh O’Sullivan scored for Mourneabbey to see them lead 0-7 to 0-6 at the break. Ciara O’Sullivan extended their lead at the start of the second half, before three from Emma Cleary, along with one from Laura Cleary, put Éire Óg 0-10 to 0-8 up with 44 minutes gone. This proved to be their last score with Mourneabbey taking over. Jack and Ciara O’Callaghan pointed to level it, before Maire O’Callaghan put them back in front. Two from Ciara Harrington made it 0-13 to 0-10 with time running out and two late frees from Jack put the game beyond Éire Óg, who certainly put it up to the champions. They now face West Scorers for Mourneabbey: E Jack (0-9, 6f), C Harrington (0-2), N O’Sullivan, C O’Callaghan, M O’Callaghan, C O’Sullivan (0-1 each). E Cleary (0-6, 5f), S Cronin (0-2), C O’Connor, L Cleary (0-1 each.) M O’Sullivan; K Coakley, A O’Sullivan, A Walsh; A Cronin, E Meaney, K O’Brien; N O’Sullivan, B O’Sullivan; M O’Callaghan, C O’Sullivan, E Jack; C O’Callaghan, D O’Sullivan, R O’Sullivan. Scorers for Éire Óg: MOURNEABBEY: Subs: C Harrington for D O’Sullivan (ht inj), M Burke for K O’Brien (60m inj). L Crowley; A Hickey, Aobha O’Connell, Alannah Hickey; R Sheehan, M Cahalane, S McGoldrick; I Sheehan, C O’Connor; S Cronin, L Cleary, A Nic Abhaird; R Murphy, E Cleary, O Cahalane. E Crowley for R Murphy (45m). Colin McTaggart, Nemo Rangers. ÉIRE ÓG: Sub: Referee:
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