MALLOW UNITED and Passage United will make a return to the senior grade of the Munster Senior League this season.
Both sides had a spell in the junior ranks for the past few years and will re-enter the senior ranks in the section’s bottom tier.
Both clubs have been busy with developments that will enhance their stature — Mallow opened their astro training pitch at St Gobnait's Park, with a sand-based pitch currently in the works at the same venue.
Passage meanwhile, are hoping their astro pitch at Rockenham Park will be ready for the new season, while a lot of work has been done also to their pitch at Maulbawn, which caters for schoolboys teams.
With the great work being done behind the scenes at each cub, it was felt that now was the right time to reclaim their senior status.
Ken Tuohy has been manager of the Mallow junior side for the past few seasons and he will take the club back into the senior ranks, with Paul Cummins and Barry Doyle completing the senior management team at the north Cork club.
“We had taken the team out of the senior grade a few years ago and dropped down to the junior level,” Tuohy explains.
“The plan was to concentrate on the youth in the club and we wanted to put in place a foundation with a conveyer belt from our underage teams because without that there will be no senior.
“Playing senior was probably a bit too much for a lot of our younger players; even the experienced lads on the teams were still quite young.
“Dropping to junior made the move from underage to adult football a bit easier; it helped them to get used to playing with and against men.”
The plan appeared to be working as Mallow began to show promising signs in the past couple of seasons and things were looking good until Covid struck prematurely ending the last two campaigns.
“In a perfect world we would have completed the season and it’s a pity we didn’t finish it because we might have made the jump to senior with a bit of silverware
“We were going well in both campaigns and although we only played four league games last season, we had won them all and had reached the quarter-final of the cup having beaten premier sides Avondale United and Douglas Hall.”
That’s water under the bridge now and Tuohy is looking forward to the challenge ahead.
“The goal is is to compete and take positive steps forward. We wanted to get Mallow lads playing for this club and we’ve managed to bring some players back who had played underage but had moved elsewhere.”
Among those returning to the Mallow fold is former Cork City U19 and Cobh Ramblers star Kevin Taylor, while Darragh Cronin Jenks has come back from Park United.
“We have a hard-working committee with the likes of Jimmy Barrett, Karol O’Donovan, Noel McSweeney, Judy Long, and many more doing great work.
“The astro-training pitch is a fantastic asset and it’s been brilliant for the club and for the community as a whole.
“We have a strong set-up now and while we have no junior team this season, we hope that next season, with more underage players coming through, we will be able to field a second team.
“It’s going to a lot more competitive for the lads, nothing is handed to you so we will have to work hard.
“Realistically, this all about taking a step forward and we want to work our way through the divisions, but for now it’s just great to have football back and there’s a great buzz in the club.”
Passage will be joining Mallow in the bottom tier of senior ranks, but for them, it’s a step in the right direction.
Joe Harris has been in charge of Passage juniors for the past few seasons and he will be at the helm as they begin a new chapter in the club.
Passage were unbeaten after seven games when last season was cancelled and were already in the promotion frame, as they were the previous season before Covid struck.
Harris will have much the same squad as last season with one or two additions.
“James Kind has come back to us after a spell with Douglas Hall, as has Alex Murphy, and we will have former Cork City favourites Mark O’Sullivan and Liam Kearney in the squad also and a couple more new signings,” said Harris.
“It’s a big step for to go back senior, but the lads are well able for it. We have a lot of former Passage lads coming back and that's a big plus.
“The club is progressing nicely with work being done at the pitch in Maulbawn and we are hoping to have the astro pitch in Rockenham ready for the new season.
“The committee has been brilliant doing a lot of hard work on this project and they had hoped to have this done a couple of years ago, but with Covid, it stopped everything”
“On the pitch, we’ve been training hard and we have a few friendlies lined up when we can get back playing and we are looking forward to the new challenge ahead.”