COBH Ramblers are making strides. And not only on the pitch.
Off the field, Ramblers have been connecting with the community and the club hopes to expand and progress over the next year.
Stuart Ashton is the boss of the Ramblers' first team, and they have returned to pre-season training ahead of the 2021 League Of Ireland season.
“We are delighted to get back in training: We just started last week,” Ashton tells The Echo. “We have protocols to adhere to when we are at training sessions, which we will strictly adhere to, to keep everyone safe.
We have got to look at the bigger picture. We are one of the lucky ones, who can get back training at the minute.
"But we realise there is still a lot of work to do for everyone out there, in keeping safe and in terms of the bigger picture.
“We have got familiar faces back and the majority of the squad. At the minute, we have also got a couple of new faces in training with us and we will see where it goes with those.
“When you do go back training, you know the obvious one, that the season is coming up, and we are gearing for that.”
Of the Ramblers side that came agonisingly close to finishing in the promotion play-off places in 2020, David Hurley has departed for full-time football, at Galway United.
Darragh Crowley has returned to Cork City, after a loan spell at Cobh, while long-serving Ramblers goalkeeper, Paul Hunt, also has joined City.
However, it is a testament to the progression at Cobh that the vast majority of the side have returned, including Charlie Lyons, Pierce Phillips, John Kavanagh, and Sean Barron.
After missing out on the promotion play-offs last term, Ramblers will hope to take that extra step forward in 2021.
“Obviously, we just missed out last season on what we had set out to do, which was for promotion and the play-offs, at a minimum,” Ashton says. “So, we just missed out on that, which was disappointing.”
“The positive signs of this season coming are that the majority of lads wanted to come back and felt that they had unfinished business towards the end of last season when we got a good run going and performances.
“So, from talking to the lads, that is encouraging. We are delighted they all think that, as well,” Ashton says.
“It is for us to, hopefully, add the right people into the group, because we feel we have a good group, on and off the pitch.”
Next season will see the return of the local derbies, at first-team League Of Ireland level, between Cobh Ramblers and Cork City, for the first time in 13 years.
Ashton knows City all too well, from development work there with young footballers. But, now, his focus will be on Ramblers.
“Obviously, there are the local bragging rights of winning those. But in the overall picture, we know it is another hard game for us,” Ashton says.
Cork City have just come down from the Premier, so, obviously, they will have their expectations.
“Obviously, because it is a derby, you have got that added spice, where everyone knows one another; the players will know one another, myself and Colin (Healy), and different people around at different clubs,” Ashton says.
“So, from that point of view, it adds a little bit of spice to the rivalry there for the occasion. They will be games to look forward to and, hopefully, they will be good games.”
Indeed, the race for promotion from the First Division looks like it will be highly competitive. City, Shelbourne, Galway United, Bray Wanderers, and Athlone Town all have assembled strong squads in the hope of a promotion push.
As to what Ramblers are seeking to achieve in 2021, Ashton is hoping the side can build on last term, after just missing out on the play-offs.
“Over the next few weeks, in training, we will be going over things and, hopefully, improving,” Ashton says.
“From that point of view, we have got to take last season and, yes, we have got to continue with the good parts of it, but improve on other aspects, which we know we left ourselves down with.”