THE Imokilly hurlers have are gearing up for the 2022 Championship.
Although it remains off on the horizon, the divisional outfit have already had a few Monday night training sessions and aim to continue their work over the next few months.
They've a new-look management and backroom team guiding their fortunes with the vastly experienced Denis Ring on board as manager-coach.
St Ita's Sean Harnedy is the only existing selector from last season to be still involved. Youghal's Bill Cooper, who may still be in a position to line out on the field depending on his recovery from the injury that called time on his Cork career, has also been named as a selector along with Dungourney's Brian Ronayne and Agahda's Aidan Kelleher.
Cooper and Kelleher will assist with the coaching duties while Sean Murphy has the busy logistics role. Timmy O'Sullivan, Martin Flynn, Denis Buckner, Bernard Ahern, Pa Hanely (physio) Christoper O'Sullivan (medic) and Peter O'Keeffe (video analysis) are also part of the backroom team.
Ring, who is also involved with St Catherine's at intermediate level this year, is already familiar with a lot of the players in the Imokilly barony and is very much looking forward to the challenge ahead. He had worked with current St Catherine's manager Shane Kearney overseeing Harty Cup success at St Colman's and, having initially become involved earlier in the season as team coach with the Ballynoe outfit, is also honouring that commitment.
"I suppose I was appointed relatively late, so we are also just conscious that we hit the ground running and make up time.
"For us I see it as working with a squad in transition as we try to marry the team that was very successful with the new players who have joined the group. It will be challenging to get the time over the next few months in order to get to know the players well. I have a great friendship with former Imokilly manager 'Rasper' Condon and spoke to him at length along with last year's manager Ciaran Cronin about the Imoikily setup.
"I have got fantastic support from them and have been really impressed as to how they have promoted an almost club culture within the division. We only want to further develop that this year. They have created an Imokilly brand: young players want to play for Imokilly."
Ring is also delighted with the backroom team which has been assembled to try to guide the team through the championship this season.
"They are really very good people, all of them are full of enthusiasm, all who really want to be involved. There is a challenge there for us all - it's about trying to get players on the field of play."
Imokilly completed a three in a row of County Championship wins in 2019. There is no doubt that if they can overcome those potentially tricky early obstacles, they will again be serious contenders at the business end of the season.
The slight change in championship format means that there will be a real focus on one week in midsummer which will be make-or-break for the colleges and divisions.
"Essentially we will have the players on Monday night immediately following the second round of the hurling championship. We then have the semi-final of the divisional competition on the following Wednesday, with a potential final then on the following weekend.
"Then we do come to championship time, hopefully, we will have a plan in place to meet all eventualities. Having met with the squad they are a really good bunch and really proud to be Imokilly hurlers. I've been impressed by the appetite within the group."
Summing up the prospects for the year Ring accepts that he is coming a little bit cold into the role as it has been a while since he has been involved with a team that he does not have constant direct access to, which does present a challenge.
"It's great to be working with a group that really wants to hurl. The round-robin club competition is massive progression but realistically as a decision we probably won't have as much access as before. If can get over the first few games, which will be very difficult, hopefully we might get a clearer run."