NEWCOMERS Kanturk will find all about life in a higher grade of football in 2018 after being paired with Nemo Rangers in the first round of the Premier Intermediate Championship.
And while it will be the Trabeg’s second team, Nemo still have a formidable array of talent at their disposal, particularly earlier on in the championship.
Nemo were unfortunate to face Mallow in round one and Bandon in round 2B this year, as the north club went to win the title and the west Cork side reached the semi-finals.
Like Knocknagree in the lower grade, though, Kanturk will have other matters on their minds first as they gear up for their All-Ireland intermediate hurling semi-final against Armagh’s Middletown Na Fianna on Sunday, January 21.
The all-conquering Kanturk are just an hour away from a Croke Park date, so, for the moment, it’s all hurling in the district.
St Michael’s, the losing finalists this year, are involved in the most difficult portion of the early rounds.
It’s hard enough having to confront Macroom in the first round, but the losers then have to contend with the losers of the Éire Óg-Ballingeary tie in round 2, where it’s all or nothing.
Bandon and Newmarket were the other sides to reach the business end of the championship in 2017.
The west Cork club found champions Mallow too much of a handful in the semi-final, but the experience will stand to Bandon big time.
Newmarket went under to free-scoring St Michael’s in the other last-four tie, but again, the Duhallow club’s youngsters will have learned from that test.
Next year, Bandon take on Naomh Abán while Newmarket face Na Piarsaigh in two difficult games to predict an outcome.
The losers of the Bandon-Naomh Abán tie were the lucky ones to receive a bye to the third round.
Fermoy are another club with strong designs on winning a most competitive championship and they, too, start with a challenging test from Bantry Blues.
St Vincent’s and Castletownbere may be miles apart in terms of geography, but they will meet somewhere in the middle for a place in round 3.
In all 14 clubs entered the championship, resulting in seven first-round games, three losers’ games in round two and a bye for either Bandon or Naomh Abán.
The championship looks like being wide open again in 2018 with a winner at this juncture almost impossible to predict.
2018 PIFC DRAW:
A. St Vincent’s v Castownbere
B. Nemo Rangers v Kanturk
C. Bandon v Naomh Aban
D. Éire Óg v Ballingeary
E. Na Piarsaigh v Newmarket
F. Bantry Blues v Fermoy
G. Macroom v St Michael’s
Loser F v loser E
Loser G v loser D
Loser B v loser A
Bye: losers of Bandon and Naomh Abán