Keith Ricken's Cork head along the Wild Atlantic Way for GAA opener

Rebels meet Clare next Thursday in the McGrath Cup first round in Miltown-Malbay
Keith Ricken's Cork head along the Wild Atlantic Way for GAA opener

New Cork football manager Keith Ricken seen here addressing Cork U20s in their All-Ireland semi-final against Offaly in July.

IN years to come people will recall Keith Ricken’s first game in charge of the Cork footballers.

It might even make a good quiz question with the answer of ‘the first Thursday in January in 2022 in far-away Miltown-Malbay at 7pm.’

That’s the setting for the McGrath Cup Group A encounter against Clare on the edge of the Atlantic, which could roar with some ferocity, a week today.

There is probably some logic for fixing the tie on such a night at such a venue though it escapes me at the moment.

Either way, it’s Ricken’s opening bow since taking over the helm from Ronan McCarthy and it’s also the first ‘proper’ year of the split-season, starting with inter-county in January and concluding in July before the clubs take over.

In some way, it does make sense to travel to the wilds of west Clare because long journeys form a central plank of Cork’s Division 2 league campaign, which begins at the end of the month away to Roscommon at Dr Hyde Park.

Cork have three games at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Clare, Galway, and Down, but when you consider the 250-mile round trip to Tullamore to play Offaly in the concluding tie at the end of March is the closest encounter to home it sums up how much sight-seeing the players will see of the country.

Cork must also take in Derry and Navan in a very competitive division, which will have the usual two-up and two-down format with the leading two counties meeting in the final.

The McGrath Cup kicks off on Sunday, when former Nemo Rangers and Cork Ladies Football manager, Ephie Fitzgerald, embarks on his own journey as the new Waterford boss.

They host the Banner at Walsh Park in a game refereed by Cork’s Pa O’Driscoll before Fitzgerald brings the Deise to play Cork at Pairc Ui Rinn on Tuesday week.

Limerick are the defending champions, having defeated Cork by 0-20 to 0-16 in the 2020 final at the Gaelic Grounds.

They begin the defence of their title against Kerry in Tralee next Wednesday with John Ryan the man in the middle.

Tipperary complete Group B and the section winners clash in the final on Saturday, January 15.

It’s a busy start to the New Year, especially for UCC and MTU Cork Campus, or CIT if you prefer, because they’re gearing up for a Sigerson Cup first-round joust the week starting the 10th.

Cork U20s are also competing early, joining Kerry and Galway in the John Kerins Cup, starting in February with a home fixture against the Kingdom.

FOOTBALL FIXTURES

JANUARY

6th: McGrath Cup Clare v Cork, Miltown Malbay, 7pm.

Week starting 10th: Sigerson Cup R1: MTU Cork Campus v UCC; MTU Kerry Campus v UCD.

11th: McGrath Cup Cork v Waterford, Pairc Ui Rinn, 7pm.

15th: McGrath Cup final. Corn Ui Mhuiri quarter-finals: Skibbereen CS v PS Rathmore; Clonakilty CC v Tralee CBS; Hamilton HS Bandon v Mercy Mounthawk Tralee; St Brendan’s v Colaiste na Sceilge.

16th: Munster Club Football final St Finbarr’s v Austin Stacks, TBC.

Week starting 17th: Sigerson Cup R2: Winners MTU Cork Campus or UCC v winners MTU Kerry Campus or UCD; losers MTU Cork Campus or UCC v losers MTU Kerry Campus or UCD.

Week starting 24th: Sigerson Cup R3.

29th: Corn Uí Mhuirí semi-finals: Skibbereen CS or PS Rathmore v Clonakilty CC or Tralee CBS; Hamilton HS Bandon or Mercy Mounthawk Tralee v St Brendan’s or Colaiste na Sceilge.

30th: NFL Division 2: Roscommon v Cork, Dr Hyde Park, 2pm.

Week starting 31st: Sigerson Cup quarter-finals.

FEBRUARY

5th: NFL: Cork v Clare, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 5pm.

7th: Sigerson Cup semi-finals.

12th: Corn Ui Mhuiri final.

16th-17th: Sigerson Cup final.

19th: John Kerins Cup: Cork v Kerry.

20th: NFL Derry v Cork, Owenbeg, 2pm.

26th: NFL Cork v Galway, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 5pm.

MARCH

5th: John Kerins Cup: Galway v Cork.

13th: NFL Meath v Cork, Navan, 2pm.

20th: NFL Cork v Down, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1pm.

27th: NFL Offaly v Cork, Tullamore, 2pm.

MAY

7th: Munster SFC semi-final Cork v Kerry, TBC.

14th-15th: Tipperary or Waterford v Clare or Limrrick.

28th: Munster SFC final.

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