29 Sept 2022

Concession of walkovers by traditional football clubs creates big dilemma for Offaly GAA as Shannonbridge lose appeal

Decision time for Offaly football championships

Concession of walkovers by traditional football clubs creates big dilemma for Offaly GAA as Shannonbridge lose appeal

Then St Rynagh's captain Sean Dolan receiving the IFC cup from County Board chairman Michael Duignan just two years ago.

THE Offaly GAA County Board have been handed a major dilemma and source of concern after a couple of struggling but very traditional football clubs have conceded walkovers in group championship games this weekend.

St Rynagh's have conceded to Bracknagh in the Senior “B” Football Championship on Friday evening while Doon have handed the points to Ballinagar on Saturday evening in the Junior Football Championship.

The latest developments came hot on the heels of Shannonbridge not fulfilling a fixture against Ferbane in the Intermediate Football Championship a couple of weeks ago. Shannonbridge cited Covid issues as the reason for not playing that game and they appealed a Competitions Control Committee decision awarding the points to Ferbane. That appeal was before the Hearings Committee on Thursday evening and Shanonbridge lost it after they were unable to show that the CCC had misapplied a rule in their original ruling.

Shannonbridge can still get through to the quarter-finals with the winners of their game against Daingean qualifying on Sunday – a Shannonbridge win would put them on two points alongside Daingean and they would go through on the head to head rule. A point will be enough to put Daingean through.

The walkovers by St Rynagh's and Doon do not have a huge bearing on their respective championships. In both cases, their opponents, Bracknagh and Ballinagar were assured of top spot in their groups and a place in the semi-finals while St Rynagh's and Doon were assured of a relegation play off, even if they had recorded shock wins.

However, it does have an impact on the championships as it means that scoring difference can't be applied in groups where a walkover has been conceded. This could happen in St Rynagh's group in the SFC “B” - if Ballycumber and Gracefield draw on Friday evening, they will tie on four points and a play off will now be needed to determine who is second and third. It could also happen in group 2 in the IFC if Ballycommon and Ferbane draw and tie for top spot on four points. Similarily if Edenderry and Kilclonfert draw in group 2 in the Junior Football Championship, they will tie on three points and a play off will have to decide who is second and third.

Those play offs will only materialise if there is a draw in those games but any club conceding a walkover does a great disservice to a championship, undermining its integrity – in fairness to the clubs, they would not have conceded walkovers lightly and would have genuine issues with players' availability but it does not disguise the fact that it is a very serious problem for them and that this just should not happen.

It also damages the clubs they were down to play. In the case of Bracknagh and Ballinagar, who have qualified for the semi-finals, it means they will go six weeks in the peak months of the year without a championship game and it does not help their preparations for their big knockout game.

The Shannonbridge game is a bit different, they have claimed extenuating circumstances with Covid and they will field against Daingean but they also didn't fulfill a fixture they were fixed to play and this has damaged that championship.

Ironically, the three clubs are in the same general West Offaly hinterland. Numbers have become an issue for them in recent years and St Rynagh's have a lot of dual players who are concentrating on hurling as well as older statemen retiring – St Rynagh's has two separate clubs with the Football Club based in Cloghan and the Hurling Club in Banagher but with a crossover of dual players.

However, the concession of walkovers in championship games, even in situations where a club is out of contention, suggests a deeper, more fundamental problem. Walkovers in junior and junior “B” would not be uncommon but they would be very rare in the higher grades.

St Rynagh's, Shannonbridge and Doon are three very important clubs for Offaly football, have supplied some great county players and this whole issue is one that will have to be examined very seriouysly by the County Board.

The problem is not restricted to those clubs and that west Offaly area. St Broughan's, an underage amalgamation of Bracknagh, Clonbullogue and Walsh Island have conceded walkovers to Ballinamere-Durrow and Cloghan in the Minor Football Championship. That is a very serious situation as this is a powerful, big area in the heartland of Offaly football and the parish, mainly Walsh Island, have supplied some of Offaly's greatest footballers.

Gracefield, another club who has made a great contribition to Offaly football, have conceded walkovers to An Tulach Mhor and Cloghan in the U-15 Football Competition – Cloghan is ran mainly by St Rynagh's Football Club but has fielded permission players from other clubs in south Offaly.

It is a very worrying trend at adult and underage level and one that has to be addressed by the clubs involved and the County Board. Both St Rynagh's and Doon will now have to face relegation play offs and hopefully they will be able to field in those.

It has reared its head on one of the biggest weekend of the year for the Offaly football championships with the final round of group games taking place in most adult grades.

This weekend's actions will determine the line ups for the quarter-finals as well as the semi-finalists, though some things have been decided already – the top team in each group go into the semi-finals with the next two in the quarter-finals.

The following are previews of this weekend's action:

Senior “B” Football Championship

A few things have been decided in the Senior “B” Football Championship, irrespective of the closing group results. Bracknagh will defintely top group 2 and will be in the semi-finals.

Walsh Island in group 1 and Ballycumber and Gracefield in group 2 are assured of quarter-final places. St Rynagh's were out even before conceding a walkover in their final game while last year's beaten finalists, Tubber are in a critical position in group 1 and have to beat Erin Rovers to survive.

In group 1, Walsh Island have performed brilliantly to date, beating Erin Rovers and Tubber. They play parish rivals Clonbullogue in their final game and a point here will earn them a semi-final place.

Erin Rovers and Clonbullogue have two points each. A point in their final game will assure qualification. You could end up with three teams on four points in this group and that will happen if Clonbullogue beat Walsh Island and Erin Rovers beat Tubber. You could also end up with three on two – that will emerge if Walsh Island beat Clonbullogue and Tubber beat Erin Rovers.

You could end up with Tubber and Erin Rovers tying on two points on their own. That will happen if Clonbullogue get a result against Walsh Island, Tubber beat Erin Rovers and in this situation, Tubber will go through under the head to head rule.

The stand out game in the final round is the meeting of Erin Rovers and Tubber, a true knockout game between two sides who are generally evenly matched. Erin Rovers turned their season around when beating Clonbullogue after a bad defeat by Walsh Island in their opening game. Tubber have struggled, losing to Walsh Island and Clonbullogue but they remain very genuine championship contenders. It could be all over for them this weekend but their track record is good against Erin Rovers and if they survive, they could get very serious.

Group 2 is done and dusted. Bracknagh couldn't have been denied top spot before St Rynagh's handed them the points and they would have stayed ahead on the head to head rule. St Rynagh's are bottom without a point and they were in the relegation play off even if they had fielded and beaten Bracknagh.

The meeting of Ballycumber and Gracefield will just determine who is second and third but Ballycumber have a major point to prove after manging just two points in a fairly shocking defeat by Bracknagh in their last game.

The final round of group games take place on Friday at 8.00pm

Group 1

Erin Rovers v Tubber in Doon; Verdict – Tubber.

Clonbullogue v Walsh Island in Geashill; Verdict – Clonbullogue.

Group 2

Bracknagh v St Rynagh's in Croghan; Walkoever conceded to Bracknagh.

Ballycumber v Gracefield in Rhode; Verdict – Gracefield.

Intermediate Football Championship

The Intermediate Football Championship is fairly clearcut now after Shannonbridge lost an appeal against the loss of points from their game against Ferbane in the last round. Shannonbridge didn't field that day, citing Covid issues, and as expected they were unable to prove that the Competitions Control Committee had misapplied a rule in their appeal against their decision to the Hearings Committe on Thursday evening.

The loss of those Shannonbridge points from the Ferbane game means that scoring difference can't be used in group 2 and a play off could be needed.

In group 1, Raheen have four points, St Brigid's and Tullamore two and Clodiagh Gaels one. Raheen are quaranteed a quarter-final place and will top the group if they get a result against Tullamore. Clodiagh Gaels must beat St Brigid's to survive. If Clodiagh Gaels win and Tullamore lose to Raheen, there will be three teams on two points and scoring difference will decide which two go into the quarter-finals. The scoring difference in this group is: Raheen +13; St Brigid's -10, Tullamore +5 and Clodiagh Gaels -10.

If Clodiagh Gaels win and Tullamore get a result against Raheen, Clodiagh Gaels will put Brigid's out on the head to head rule. If Tullamore beat Raheen and Clodiagh Gaels get a result against St Brigid's, Tullamore will claim a semi-final place. If Tullamore and St Brigid's win, them and Raheen will tie on four points – they will all be through and scoring difference will decide who tops the group and goes into the semi-finals. That situation is a possibility.

In group 2, Ballycommon and Ferbane have three points, Daingean have two and Shannonbridge have none. With Ferbane having the two points from the Shannonbridge game, it leaves it all very clearcut. Ballycommon and Ferbane will play to decide who tops the group and goes into the semi-finals while the meeting of Daingean and Shannonbridge will dictate who goes into the quarter-finals and who into the relegation play off.

The final round of fixtures are on Sunday at 12 noon:

Group 1

Raheen v Tullamore in Rhode; Verdict – Raheen.

Clodiagh Gaels v St Brigid's in Walsh Island; Verdict – St Brigid's.

Group 2

Daingean v Shannonbridge in Clara; Verdict – Daingean.

Ballycommon v Ferbane in Ballycumber; Verdict – Ballycommon.

Junior Football Championship

Group 2 is decided in the Junior Football Championship where the only issue is who will finish second and third while group 1 has a couple of issues up in the air.

In Group 2, Ballinagar are assured of top spot and a semi-final place. They have six points after Doon conceded a walkover to them in their final group game. Edenderry and Kilclonfert have two points and their result will decide who is second and third for the quarter-finals.

In group 1, Kilcormac-Killoughey have four points, Rhode 3, Tullamore 1 and Durrow 0. The winner of Kilcormac-Killoughey and Rhode will top the group and go into the semi-finals – a draw will do K-K. The winner of Tullamore and Durrow will go into the quarter-finals with the losers in the relegation play off and a draw will be enough for Tullamore.

The final round takes place on Saturday at 6pm with first named at home:

Group 1

Tullamore v Durrow; Verdict – Tullamore.

Rhode v Kilcormac-Killoughey; Verdict – Kilcormac-Killoughey.

Group 2

Ballinagar v Doon; Ballinagar given walkover.

Edenderry v Kilclonfert; Verdict – Edenderry.

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