LAST season was a pretty good one for Cork star Seamus Harnedy.
The St Ita's player won his first senior county medal with divisional side, Imokilly and was part of the Cork team that won the Munster championship – a title they weren't expected to get past the first round of in the eyes of many.
Unfortunately, the Rebels came up just short in the All-Ireland semi-final before it was back to action in the local championship and that success with Imokilly.
For the coming season, he will have the honour of leading the Rebels out as he was named captain of the side recently.
The 27-year-old is now one of the more experienced players in the squad and no doubt he will be one of those they will look to in their bid for glory this season.
And what a game he will get the chance to lead them out in for the first time as Kilkenny are in town for their opening league encounter on Saturday night.
It's part of a double-header, which sees the footballers take on Tipperary, which are the first games under the new state-of-the-art led floodlights at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
He is well aware that the Cats aren't travelling down the road just for fun and they would like nothing better than upsetting the party and head home with the points in the bag.
Harnedy is looking forward to the getting going, with throw-in at 7pm.
“For whatever 15 make the starting line-up it's going to be a special occasion. Cork hurlers first big game at the new Pairc and added to with Kilkenny in town as our opponents.
“It's really exciting and I always say this time of year comes around really quick and I am looking forward to it.
"Things have been going well so far and, a bit like the championship, the league will be run off fairly fast so it will be all go from the start.
“Kilkenny have a great tradition and you know what they are going to bring when they come to town.
“Their never-say-die attitude means they are never beaten until the final whistle goes, so it should be a great night in prospect, not only for the team but for the people of Cork as well.
“We have had good and bad days in the jersey over the last number of years but there is one thing that always is certain and that's the Cork people turn up in their droves and hopefully they will be our 16th man on the night, not just for us but for the footballers as well.
“You could see it last year, the amount of support and goodwill towards us, and the footballers is ever present. As a player you can only focus on yourself and put your best foot forward and, looking back, we didn't know what kind of a crowd would turn up and support us against Tipperary in the first round of the championship.
“Thankfully a huge crowd turned up and we delivered a performance to match. And we know that's the kind of performance we are going to have to deliver again this year and no doubt the supporters will be there all the way with us.
“At this time of the year conditions will be tough, but the Pairc has been used lightly in recent months and I know they will have it primed for the night. For a few of the fixtures, you will probably encounter tough conditions, but that's part of the national league and that's always the way it has been. But it's the same for both teams on any given day.
“As well as training I think John and the rest of the management team have given players a chance to impress in the Munster League and I have no doubt a few of them will be in the panel and put pressure on others that are there.
“The likes of Daragh Fitzgibbon and Mark Coleman really shone there last year and went on to have great seasons in the league and championship. Others have been given a fair go this year and it's vitally important that you are constantly looking for new players.
“It keeps us all on our toes and it's no harm they are challenging fellas and in some cases replacing them. So that can be nothing but good and the more players that are coming through the better it is for your panel.
“The strength-in-depth of the panel is going to be vital this year in the championship. Your turn around time will only be six or seven days and if you get a knock sometimes you can't recover in that time. If you got a bad hamstring at the start of the campaign you may very well miss the whole Munster championship, such is the tight time between matches.
“Depending on how things go we could easily end up using 25 or even more players in that championship and we are going into unknown territory for players, management and supporters with this new format.” Speaking on the captaincy, Harnedy, said he was delighted and honoured to captain his county.
“Absolutely, it's a huge honour for me, my family and club, but we have leaders all over the pitch and I am just going to try and be myself and if I can help anyone out, especially the younger players I will.
“It's an exciting time for me, but I won't get too bogged down in it and will just try and be myself and get on with it.
“Last year was a good year and it's one I won't forget for a long time, winning county and Munster medals. But you can never look too far ahead and the All-Ireland championship is massively competitive now and there are seven or eight teams who could win it.
“So for the neutral, it's never been a better championship to watch, but from our point of view, you might get away with an early or late blip in the Munster campaign and still be involved in the All-Ireland series.
“But we can't take anything for granted and as I said there are seven or eight teams that could win it. We will be taking it step by step, starting with the league and trying to get our form right and a few early victories.
“But right now all our thoughts are on Kilkenny and we won't be looking at anything beyond that and we will take it from there,” concluded Seamus.