AGHADA return to the football arena tomorrow afternoon in what is sure to be a very poignant occasion in Kilmurry.
They meet Castletownbere in the county Premier Intermediate Football Championship, just a week after saying their last goodbyes to club stalwart Kieran O’Connor, an All-Ireland winner in 2010.
The current players will give it 100 per cent in ensuring the first game back will honour the memory of the sterling defender, sadly taken at only 41.
Last season Aghada lost twice after extra-time to Na Piarsaigh and Éire Óg and the championship looks wide-open again this season.
Diarmaid Phelan won an All-Ireland U20 medal in 2019 while Danny Creedon’s free-taking was another factor. Pearse O’Neill brings a wealth of experience.
Castletownbere also lost twice, to Kanturk after a replay and Nemo Rangers. Gary Murphy is their main forward.
Na Piarsaigh and Newmarket are the other teams in the group, meeting in Banteer.
The city club’s Shane Forde played for Cork in the McGrath Cup, scoring a goal against Kerry in Tralee.
The Duhallow club lost to Bandon and Eire Og by a point to underline their potential with players such as keeper Josh O’Keeffe, an All-Ireland U20 winner, the experienced Bart Daly, Daniel Culloty and Barry O’Connor.
There’s a crunch game in group 3 involving Kanturk and Macroom in Cullen tomorrow evening.
Kanturk reached the semi-finals last season, losing to St Michael’s at the second time of asking, so there’s no denying they’re one of the fancied sides again.
Paul Walsh is in the Cork set-up while Daniel O’Connell helped the county to the U20 All-Ireland last year.
Aidan Walsh, John McLoughlin, Lorcan O’Neill and Ian Walsh are all proven performers to highlight the task confronting Macroom, for whom Fintan Goold will lead from the front.
The other teams in the group are Nemo Rangers’ second string and Gabriel Rangers who meet in Kilmichael on Sunday.
Nemo will be missing a few players because of injuries to the senior squad, but they will be young, fit and skilful.
Gabriels contested the county intermediate final in 2019, missing two penalties against Knocknagree in the process. Defender Ger O’Callaghan played for Cork juniors while midfielder Sean Kelleher and forwards Mark Cronin and Eddie Goggin are capable finishers.
Group 2 is the most intriguing. It has Knocknagree, Cill na Martra, St Vincent’s and Naomh Aban.
Knocknagree take on the city club, backboned by half-a-dozen players who helped Duhallow qualify for the county final.
Michael Mahony won an All-Ireland U20 medal last season while the O’Connors, Anthony and Fintan, and John Fintan Daly are key forwards. Blake Murphy is St Vincent’s main scoring power.
Tadhg Corkery has Cork experience for Cill na Martra against Naomh Aban, who have Aodan O Luasa, a Cork U20 winner.
PIFC Group 1: Castletownbere v Aghada, Kilmurry, 5pm; Newmarket v Na Piarsaigh, Banteer, 5pm; Group 3: Macroom v Kanturk, Cullen, 7pm.
Group 2: Naomh Aban v Cill na Martra, Macroom, 2pm; St Vincent’s v Knocknagree, Donoughmore, 4pm; Group 3: Nemo Rangers v Gabriel Rangers, Kilmichael, 4pm.