AT the back end of October news started to filter out that significant changes were being made to the Sigerson Cup, the famous third-level football championship, initially for the preserve of the universities, but extended to include institutes of technology.
One was that the competition would revert to a straight knock-out tournament with no losers' back-door route back into the championship.
In an era of second chance and even third chance opportunities for teams beaten in their opening games, never mind group style championships, it represented a throw-back to the good old days of sides getting one opportunity to prove their worth.
The other significant move was to bring the dates of the Sigerson forward to ensure an earlier start and more importantly, an earlier conclusion.
Chiefly, that was to avoid a repeat of previous seasons, when the Sigerson clashed with league games, burdening already the workload of some inter-county players and so early in the season at that.
Now it's going to be run off in less than three weeks, beginning with round 1 ties on January 12 and wrapping up with the final on the 29th with DCU acting as hosts this season.
The chairman of the higher education committee, Michael Hyland, spoke at the time of the changes.
“We've been under pressure because the competition has overlapped with the league, but a lot of teams will be out now before the league starts.
“We hope it will ease some of the pressure on our third-level players who have choices to make at a busy time,” he said.
UCC are the defending champions, following their 23rd success last season, when overcoming St Mary's from Belfast by 0-16 to 1-9 in the final on February 20.
Ballincollig's Cian Kiely captained a team in which Kerry star Sean O'Shea contributed 0-7, including five from frees, as College ran at the defence-minded Ulster side.
The Cork students have been a handed a tough task in the first round next month, when they travel to play NUIG in Galway in a repeat of last year's gripping semi-final.
O'Shea again added to his growing reputation by top-scoring with 2-3 with fellow Kerryman, Conor Geaney chipping in with 1-4 and Clare's Eimhin Courtney claiming the other goal.
UCC's division 1 league campaign is sure to be of little use to the Galway side because the local college suffered a heavy defeat to UL, pipped IT Tralee by a point and lost their second game to the Garda College.
NUIG's league performances underlined what's in store for the defending champions because they breezed through their group containing Athlone IT, Sligo IT and Maynooth University to reach the knock-out phase.
There, the Galway students recorded big wins over UL and Queens to contest the final against UUJ, who edged a close game by 1-8 to 0-7.
As we know, though, there's a major difference between league and championship, regardless of the grade, and UCC are sure to be a force once again come Sigerson time.
The Sigerson Cup round 1 draw is: NUIG v UCC; IT Tralee v IT Carlow; IT Sligo v UL; Athlone IT v Letterkenny IT, UCD v UUJ; Maynooth University v St Mary's; DCU v Garda College; Queens University v TU Dublin (formerly Dublin IT).
Meanwhile, Cork schools are planning their preparations for the quarter-finals of the Dr Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí, the Munster Post-Primary Schools Senior Hurling and Football Championships next month.
The hurlers of Midleton CBS, the defending champions, CBC, the losing finalists, and St Colman's, Fermoy, are first in action on January 8.
A week later it's the turn of the footballers of Hamilton High School, Bandon, Coláiste Choilm, Ballincollig, St Francis College, Rochestown, and Clonakilty Community College.
Dr Harty Cup: Quarter-finals, January 8: (1) CBC v St Colman’s, Fermoy; (2) Midleton CBS v DLS, Waterford; (3) St Flannan’s v St Joseph’s, Tulla; (4) Thurles CBS v Our Lady’s, Templemore. Semi-finals: 1 v 2, 3 v 4.
Corn Ui Mhuiri: Quarter-finals, January 15: (1) Hamilton High School, Bandon v Tralee CBS; (2) Pobalscoil Rathmore v Colaiste Choilm, Ballincollig; (3) St Brendan’s, Killarney v St Flannan’s; (4) St Francis College, Rochestown v Clonakilty Community College. Semi-finals: 1 v 2, 3 v 4.