WELL-KNOWN Youghal GAA stalwart Ken Bulman has a busy season ahead whenever the green light is given for a return to club action.
After taking over the role of the Intermediate hurling manager last year, Ken has now added the junior football job to his workload as he hopes to help his beloved club to follow the scent of silverware.
Waterford native and newly-appointed Sarsfield’s senior hurling coach, Peter Queally also previously held both managerial posts in the seaside club, so it is a concept that is not unfamiliar in Youghal GAA circles.
Ken faces the task of aiming to revive Youghal’s fortunes in 2021 after both the hurlers and footballers fell a bit short of expectation last year.
The hurlers suffered two defeats in their three premier intermediate group matches, with the win over Courcey Rovers proving their big result of the season.
In football, after coming down from intermediate level, Youghal lost out to Carrigtwohill following extra time in their junior football semi-final.
Interestingly, both codes have enjoyed great days in the not too distant past. Youghal hurlers were county champions at Premier Intermediate level in 2013 and went on to win the provincial title, whilst the footballers enjoyed a glorious spell early in the new millennium winning the Intermediate grade in 2000 after a replayed final against Nemo Rangers.
Thus, the club has sampled senior hurling and football action in relatively recent times and that tradition is something the new manager Ken Bulman will be reminding the current crop of players, many of whom tog out in both codes.
That big dual involvement was one of the main reasons why Ken was tempted to take on the second managerial post.
“It’s about player welfare at the end of the day and I think it makes perfect sense,” comments Ken.
“As a club, we have a lot of dual players and they were being dragged from pillar to post over the past few years, with nobody gaining out of it.
With both groups now under the one banner, it means we can organise training to suit everybody.
“Rather than have extra nights, it might just mean that we have longer sessions.
“Results may not suggest it, but there is a great interest in football in the club and we want to make sure that it gets a fair share of training time as well.
“The history is there with the big ball game. Not too many years ago, Youghal reached a county senior quarter-final against Na Piarsaigh and around that time we had won three U21 titles.
“The one manager system has worked before in terms of getting the best out of players.
“This year the five of us who were involved with the intermediate hurlers in 2021 have been joined by Ciaran Coleman and Stephen Twomey who will be more football orientated and they will take on the coaching roles.”
So what of the hurling reflections from 2020 and expectations going forward on the back of last year?
Ken Bulman says that big disappointment was the reversal to Aghads in the opening match.
“Unfortunately, the results have been on a downward curve over the past few seasons. This management team came in mid-season and we were hoping to raise standards all around.
“We felt quite confident going into that Aghada game as our preparation was good. However, one of our players got a red card in the second half and that seemed to turn the match.
“Immediately afterward the match our captain Conor Spillane and a few of the senior players took control of the situation and asked everybody to lift their efforts again.
“We were excellent against Courcey Rovers and were with Carrigaline up until about 45 minutes, but they finished very well.
“Bearing that in mind, we always have aspirations for every season. It looks like a transition period between minors coming through and keeping the more senior players to the fore also.
“It’s a season where we want to be better than what we were last year. If we can raise our own standards I think our results will improve.”
Ken also accepts that it’s right to have expectations in terms of the club’s football journey in 2021.
“We were at a higher grade and are now back down for the second year running.
“Like the hurling scenario there are a number of players probably coming towards the end of their career, so again we will be looking to bring the younger generation through.
“The team were very disappointed to go out after extra time in the semi-final last year.
“To me, it all now comes down to preparation again. Like everybody we are awaiting clarity as to the shape of the season and then work towards a start-up date.
There is a definite appetite to get back on the field.
"Last year was great in that the way the season eventually worked out, we had huge numbers training. That makes all the difference in terms of being able to do proper sessions.
“It’s something I think we can embrace again in 2021 - it’s a new challenge being involved with both codes.
“We want to improve both the hurling and football team within the club, that’s our main objective.”
Like everybody else, Ken Bulman and his fellow selectors have their bags packed and are ready for the season ahead.
We all await the green light!