Amalgamation Naomh Eoin/O’Currys will be exempt from relegation in the 2019 Clare SFC.
In February, club delegates agreed to go with proposals from the master fixtures plan which stated “In the event that one or more grouped teams (amalgamation) enter the senior championship in 2019, the grouped team will be added to a group by open draw with no more than one grouped team in each group. Should a grouped team finish bottom of the group, the third team in the group will contest the relegation semi-final”.
Prior to the start of this year’s Clare SFC, clubs sought clarity on the ruling and questioned if the West Clare amalgamation could avoid the relegation series if they finished bottom of their group.
Clare GAA Chairman, Joe Cooney told delegates at Tuesday’s meeting of the County Board, “It was decided in February to go with the master fixtures plan, I don’t think we can change that. Clubs have been in touch but my belief is to go with what was approved”.
Secretary of Kilrush Shamrocks, David O’Shea flagged that the February agreement “made no allowance for Senior B”. Seamus Hayes of the County Board’s Fixtures Committee highlighted that a different format to the SFC meant alterations had to be made to the Senior B competition.
“Earlier this year there was talk of three to four amalgamations. What would happen if they don’t play next year and Naomh Eoin / O’Currys aren’t going down, you don’t know how many teams will be playing. Why should they get preference, why should they get special status,” Clondegad delegate Seamus O’Reilly queried and added that delegates needed to put their hands up for failing to speak out when the master fixtures were approved.
Kilmihil’s delegate Eoin Downes voiced the club’s disapproval. “We won the intermediate football championship in 2017 and were up for what was the worst year to be up in senior with five teams being relegated, everyone said we would be relegated but we held our place”. He added, “There is no equality if a team below us doesn’t win a game and still stays up. This has been a farce from the start when a note was passed up at a meeting in the Temple Gate to say there was an amalgamation. If we amalgamate next year, our lads will be senior forever”.
County secretary, Pat Fitzgerald reminded delegates of the stance he has held from the beginning of the year on the matter. “I disapproved of it before it was approved. I nailed my colours to the mast and I’m on record. I was talking but nobody was listening”.
Addressing the meeting, Joe Garry who has been manager of Naomh Eoin/O’Currys since July, encouraged clubs to embrace mergers. “They knew entering the team they would not be battling relegation,” he said the panel of players have given “a huge effort”. Referring to comments on fairness, Garry stated, “It is also not fair that eleven clubs in the senior championship play one game a weekend and others have to play two”. He added, “I think amalgamating is the way to go whether it is training or playing together, it will help to bring out standards up”.
Concluding the debate, Cooney emphasised, “It is something that needs to be addressed for 2020”.
As per Rule 3.19 (d), “A Regulation once adopted shall remain in force unless altered or deleted by a simple majority of those present, entitled to vote and voting. Alterations may be considered only on an annual basis”.
With Naomh Eoin/O’Currys safe from relegation despite being the bottom team at present in Group 1, Saturday’s meeting of Kilrush Shamrocks and Kilmihil will determine the side at risk. The Group 2 meeting of Lissycasey and Corofin will see the loser finish bottom as will the clash of Doonbeg and Cooraclare in Group 3. Clondegad are in need of a win to avoid facing into the relegation battle when they meet Éire Óg on Saturday evening.