IT is that time of the year when there is a palpable buzz in the air leading up to the start of the Cork SFC, PIFC and IFC championships.
Current league campaigns are no longer the primary concern but instead that date and opponent you circled on the calendar since the draws were made.
This week’s Cork county board’s football championship press launch club representatives do their best not to give anything away or utter a comment that could be printed off and stuck on an opponent’s dressing room wall.
Unsurprisingly, it is the nature of the beast; no one wants to appear in the slightest bit confident. Conversely, it is the reporter’s duty to accept that default setting when interviewing a manager or player yet extract enough opinions and comments to make a preview piece worthwhile.
Thankfully, what was abundantly clear from the board’s well-organised press night held in Páirc Uí Rinn is that everyone is eager to get going. Even more intriguingly, experienced and rookie managers taking over a sizeable number of senior teams should make for fascinating viewing as the summer unfolds.
Carbery and Beara divisions plus their respective clubs head into a fresh campaign with the Andy Scannell Cup residing west of the viaduct thanks to Carbery Rangers’ 2016 heroics. Perennial contenders, the Rosscarbery club finally secured Cork SFC success on the back of a dominant campaign.
Now that a winter of celebrations and award ceremonies has subsided, Carbery Rangers begin the defence of their title with a tantalising west Cork derby against age-old rivals Clonakilty. Motivation will not be an issue for either camp with a young Clon outfit under the tutelage of Paul Holland looking to replicate their superb first round performance, albeit a loss, against Castlehaven a year ago.
For their part, Rangers have turned to the new management tandem of Maurice Moore and Shane Crowley to oversee a battle-hardened squad’s development. Add in the experience of winning a first senior championship and Ross’ battle with Clon should be an absorbing one.
On the same day, at Castlehaven’s upgraded Moneyvollahane facility, Carbery’s divisional squad will square off against Ilen Rovers as part of a west Cork championship first round double-header.
It wasn’t until February that Carbery ratified Gene O’Driscoll as their bainisteoir and the west Cork division needs to hit the ground running after consecutive defeats to St. Finbarr’s and Nemo ended their 2016 odyssey. Ilen Rovers are also under new management but coming off the back of a productive campaign in which the club’s U21’s went all the way to a county final.
Few teams endured a more disappointing 2016 than Beara, suffering heavy losses to Ballincollig and St. Finbarr’s whilst struggling to field their strongest line-up. Off the field, a winter of discontent saw the division’s committee undergo another overhaul, hardly the best preparation for their upcoming clash with Valley Rovers. As far as Beara are concerned, 2017 is all about consolidation and building for the future.
Newcestown get the ball rolling in a preliminary round tie against Douglas in Macroom tomorrow afternoon having defeated Aghada and UCC before Avondhu ended the west Cork side’s interest in the championship at the fourth round stage.
Dohenys survived a relegation scare last time out but Tim Buckley’s arrival along with an experienced backroom team has see the Dunmanway club enjoy a positive winter culminating in positive league results. Aghada will be tricky preliminary round opponents next weekend but this is a new Dohenys setup and one capable of improving on last summer’s performances.
Ned English’s arrival in Skibbereen has seen O’Donovan Rossa win two and lose two of their opening Division 1 League fixtures. The former Ballincollig manager will be judged on how he harnesses the talents of his squad in this year’s Cork SFC so a daunting first round clash with Nemo Rangers sees Rossa’s begin the summer as underdogs. English’s squad possesses enough quality to rebound from a potential early defeat before enjoying a lengthy campaign.
Liam Collins’ tenure as new Castlehaven bainisteoir has proven difficult with injuries to key players such as Brian Hurley and Damien Cahalane seeing the Carbery club struggle at the wrong end of the Division 1 table. CIT will pose a significant threat in the first round especially if the Haven’s short-term injuries don’t clear up.