Imokilly manager Denis Ring was delighted to guide his team to the quarter-finals of the Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC – as well as becoming the first team to claim the Denis O’Riordan Cup.
A 3-29 to 1-20 victory over Avondhu in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday evening sent Imokilly through to the last seven of the championship for the second straight year. With the O’Riordan family having presented a cup to Cork County Board in honour of the Valley Rovers stalwart, the East Cork division were also able to pick up some silverware.
“I’m one of those guys to whom it means a lot,” said Ring.
“I’d have known Denis, coming from Cloughduv, a neighbouring club to Valley Rovers, and I’d have had a lot to do with him over the years.
“It’s great to win a trophy, it’s a good start to the year. It can be tough to get fellas together but we’ve had two good games in the course of a week. There was good cohesion there, some really good support play. Fellas have developed and are playing well.
“Avondhu put up a great performance and we found it hard, they kept battling and battling – which playing 16 games or whatever it was would show you, they put in a massive amount of effort and we were delighted to get over this.”
Early goals from Diarmuid Healy and Seán Desmond put Imokilly into a lead that would never be lost, with the half-time score 2-15 to 0-13 in their favour.
“That lead was always there and it was critical,” Ring said.
“It was a six-to-eight-point lead and when you saw them coming back and getting scores, they kept getting to there but not beyond that.
“From our perspective, it was great that we kept the scoreboard ticking over and got some very good scores.
“Fellas showed a lot of maturity in terms of their use of the ball and a lot of exposure, that’s down to the bit of experience, but bigger challenges are going to lie ahead.
“Avondhu have had a lot of fellas involved with Cork squads and you can see the confidence that they had, but Imokilly are further down the road in terms of work as a divisional team and that probably showed on the night.”
It means that the champions of 2017, 2018 and 2019 – albeit with a much-changed team since then, as a result of retirements and the creation of the senior A grade – will march on with optimism to the championship proper.
Ring will be watching his players in action for their intermediate sides this weekend, while also casting an eye on potential premier senior competitors.
“Some of the players’ clubs will progress next week and some may not,” he said.
“You’re hoping to stay free of injury but, at the same time, they’re match-ready and match-fit and that offers a positive too.
“It’s a brilliant championship, this section was a very good idea, and the round-robin system is ultimately a very good idea. We’re lucky that there’s a place kept for us in the quarter-finals but there is no easy quarter-final in this championship.
“It’s going to be an interesting couple of weeks for us, to watch our lads in action with their clubs and also to look at the other groups involving the premier senior teams.
“This was knockout and the last match was knockout too, we were very conscious of that, we prepared for it on that basis. The senior championship in Cork is brilliant, any number of teams can win it and anyone can beat anyone else on a given day.
“It’s great to be there but, once you’re there, you want to go on and win it.
“Having a strong squad means you can make decisions a little bit easier, if things aren’t going well.
“You’re not weakening your team, as such, and it’s a good luxury to have but a lot of senior clubs would have that.
“In fairness to Fergal Condon and Ciarán Cronin, they’ve done fantastic work with Imokilly over the last few years and they’ve given the belief as to what Imokilly can achieve.
“When that happens, it’s easier to get the buy-in.”