THE East Cork GAA Board has pencilled in the final few days of July and early August to begin its flagship competition, the JAHC, according to long-serving Secretary Mike O’Brien.
O’Brien is in his final year in that very demanding role having previously served as the division’s Chairperson for five years.
In that time he has overseen some wonderful success, with Imokilly winning three senior hurling titles on the trot and a few of the clubs in the division making a telling presence on the county stage.
“Yes, things are beginning to look up again for the GAA in general with activity set to resume on all fronts.
“Here in East Cork we are hoping to open up with the junior A hurling championship and get it up and running on the last weekend of July and the first two days of August.
“That’s the competition that has always generated great interest and our clubs in recent years have been hugely successful when they went into the county.
“The format for this year will be three groups of three with the winner of each group going into the semi-final plus the best runner-up.
“The first group will be made up of Erin’s Own, Killeagh and St Ita’s while in the next group we’ll have Cobh, Sars and Lisgoold.
“The final group will comprise of Watergrasshill, Carraig and Fr O’Neill’s. As you will recall, Carraig na bhFear got to the county final last, losing out to Russell Rovers in the final which was a repeat of our East Cork final.
“Having the two clubs meeting in the county final showed how strong our junior championship still is despite the fact that a lot of clubs have graduated to intermediate level."
O’Brien believes that it will be a hard-fought campaign again this time.
“It will, you have four or five teams going to be n the running and I am sure Carraig na bhFear would love to go the extra mile this time.”
Lisgoold, St Ita’s, Cobh will be strong again while the second teams of the other clubs could be involved too.
“It’s been a difficult time for all the clubs but I believe they have done very well in their communities and working alongside others.”
The Imokilly secretary is hoping that the divisional team can make it four-in-a-row in the Cork SHC but admits that it could be difficult.
“Obviously, we’ll be right behind them again and I know the management team led by Ciaran Cronin are looking forward to going again.
“But it will be tough going maybe because of the time frame involved, you could have players being involved with the club on a Friday or Saturday and being out with Imokilly a day later.
“There will probably be midweek games too and the demand on players will be greater.
“We have lost a few players, the Fr O’Neill’s and Cloyne lads but the panel will still be strong and there’s still going to be great competition for places.
“Look, what everybody has done up to now has been magnificent. The players have bought into the whole structure, a structure that was put in place by Fergal Condon with his selectors.
“It has been the same set-up since the beginning and I have no doubt that Ciaran and the other lads will continue that.”
O’Brien has been delighted too with the success of the clubs in the division.
“Absolutely, we had Castlemartyr, Dungourney, St Catherine’s and Russell Rovers all winning the Cork County JHC, Fr O’Neill’s winning the county U21 and premier intermediate title.
“Sars were in a junior final, Carraig last season, that’s fair going. All those clubs were great ambassadors for the division, continuing a success story that goes back many, many years.
At the time of writing, O’Brien wasn’t sure how the whole thing will work out with people attending games and so on
“Yes, there w ill be guidelines issued I am sure and we’ll adhere to whatever is in place. The demands on pitches and getting enough referees will be a challenge.
“Clubs will be using their pitches full time, catering for their various teams while refs will be in demand too with the volume of games.
“But we’ll all be doing our best to try and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.”
Reflecting on his time as chair and secretary, O’Brien told the Echo that it has been hard work but rewarding.
“It’s a great privilege to serve in this division.
“We have had some great people before me going back to Eamon Fleming, Denis Conroy, Seamus O’Flynn, Wilie Ring, Tracey Kennedy among others and to follow in their footsteps is a great honour.
“I have been fortunate too that I have had some great people in the other positions on the board who have been a great help. A lot has been done at grassroots level, in the schools going back to Mary O’Connor’s time when she was coaching.
“That put the structures in place and great success has followed.”
I have been fortunate I had some great people in the other positions on the board who have been a great help