FOR Newcestown, the 2021 Co-op SuperStores Cork SAHC campaign was a case of so near but yet so far.
Reaching the semi-finals, they let slip an eight-point lead against Kanturk, who came back to win in extra time before going on to defeat Fr O’Neills in the final.
They move up to premier senior while Newcestown are left to try to climb the mountain again, albeit with no guarantee that that will happen.
They begin their 2022 campaign against Mallow in Coachford on Saturday (3pm), with clashes against Fermoy and Cloyne to come. While encouraged with last year’s showing, manager Charlie Wilson knows that backing up takes some doing.
“I would have no doubt that Newcestown supporters would have been delighted and disappointed in equal measure,” he says.
“We had a good run but, when you look at it afterwards, you’d be saying that it was there for the taking.
“We know ourselves that there’s only ever going to be one winner of the championship and there’s little enough between the bottom team and top team in that whole competition.
“Last year is done and dusted, we’re all starting from scratch and, unfortunately, last year is going to do nothing for us this year.
As one of the most prominent dual clubs in the county, Newcestown again face the pros and cons that that brings. The premier senior football side lost to Nemo Rangers last week and preparation for the game meant that Wilson had limited access before this week.
“That goes without saying but, at the same time, they’re more than entitled to them,” he says.
“The footballers have to have them but we’ll have to get our pound of flesh too, for want of a better word.
“We need to get access to them, but we have to be balanced and fair about it as much as we possibly can. They’re still the same players and if we don’t look after the players we’ll have nothing.
“We have injury worries, there’s no doubt about it but the way of it is that this year has been so unusual for every club, not just us.
“Things have opened up and players have gone abroad, other clubs have suffered from that, and the format of having to play 18 league games between hurling and football is a big load put on players.
“The weather had got better, meaning the ground had got harder, and injuries had started to come into play. We’re not alone there, a huge amount of clubs are talking about those three things as issues.
“It’s something we’ve had to try to deal with and it’s something that has been challenging, there’s no two ways about it. We’re just going to try to make the most of it the best we can.”
Newcestown’s RedFM Hurling League campaign was tough, with a 10th-placed finish in Division 1 Group A resulting in them dropping to Division 3 of the restructured competition for 2023.
Wilson, who is assisted by coach Seán Twomey and selectors James Desmond and Rick Bradfield, makes the point that there were mitigating factors, though.
“We’d have been hoping for a little bit better, to be honest,” he says.
“You’re always hoping, that’s the natural instinct of everyone, we all want to be the best we can be.
“We knew that we were missing players because of Cork involvement and things like that. Like anyone else, we’d players away and there were injuries and things like that.
“Let’s be honest – we’d have liked to have finished a couple of positions up the board, but we were never going to be making the top two.
“You just have to deal with what comes in front of you. We didn’t have a great league but the challenge now is to focus on the championship.”
To that end, Mallow are arguably ideal opponents, given that it was the North Cork club Newcestown had to beat in last year’s quarter-final. There certainly won’t be any complacency.
“They justified themselves to get to a quarter-final last year and so did we,” Wilson says.
“As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing between the teams one way or the other.
“They were in a similar position to us during the leagues and they’re similar in that they have a few dual players – we probably have a few more than them – and it’s hard to focus completely.
“It’s starting all over again and it doesn’t get easier. You look at what you can improve on and there’s a difference in players from year to year. You have to remotivate yourself and hope that you’ve learned enough and can move forward again.”