COBH are one of the chief beneficiaries from the new county Premier Junior Football Championship, which comes into effect next season.
The recent winners of the Imokilly title, following a Sean Hilliard hat-trick in the victory over Castlemartyr in the final, received a double boost in not only competing for the much-coveted county title this year, but also qualifying for a new Division 6 in the county leagues in 2023.
And they’re chasing a double because they meet Erin’s Own’s second string in the hurling final in Carrigtwohill this afternoon.
After that there’s a football quarter-final tie with the Duhallow champions Cullen in Mourneabbey next Saturday and this will give the east Cork outfit a taste of what will be on offer next year as their opponents are one of the championship’s fancied teams.
This pair are joined by the four other divisional winners and the quartet of clubs relegated from intermediate A, city duo, St Nick’s and St Finbarr’s second string and Duhallow’s Millstreet and Ballydesmond.
St James, who reached the 2019 county final only to lose to Kilshannig, are again on the trail as Carbery champions and face Muskerry champions Kilmurry in another major test of the teams’ championship credentials in Enniskeane.
Kinsale, who were relegated from intermediate A in 2021, began the journey back by winning the Carrigdhoun title and face Beara champions Urhan in Dunmanway while Seandún winners St Michael’s take on their Avondhu counterparts Buttevant in Grenagh.
And when it’s all done and dusted, the 12 clubs can look forward to a likely renewal next year, when the new championship will be run along the same lines as the other championships with three groups of four playing on a round-robin basis.
The top teams in each of the sections will advance to the knockout phase, the two teams with the best records progressing directly to the semi-finals and the remaining four contesting two quarter-finals.
The county junior football championship is always regarded as one of the most difficult to win because of the competition’s structure, requiring divisional success first before entering unchartered waters for many in the county stage.
And yet, it has proved the starting point for a lot of clubs who’ve surged through the grades in subsequent years with Knocknagree a case in point.
The Duhallow club captured the junior county in 2017 by overcoming Erin’s Own in the final and since then its been a roller-coaster of a journey taking in Munster and All-Ireland honours to being just an hour away from joining the elite in PSFC.
They meet St Michael’s in the SAFC decider at Páirc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow three weeks in the curtain-raiser to the Barrs-Nemo Rangers PSFC final with a lot at stake.
Two years ago, Iveleary were crowned junior champions and have since jumped two further rungs in the ladder to contest the PIFC semi-finals this season, going down to Bantry Blues in a cracking tie.
Meanwhile, Urhan retained their Beara Junior B title after a tight contest against Adrigole, winning by 1-9 to 1-6. Adrigole hit the front with a ninth-minute goal from Mikey Peter O’Sullivan and two further points them 1-3 to 0-1 in front early on.
Urhan responded with three unanswered points for 1-3 to 0-4 at the interval and they maintained that advantage, 1-5 to 0-5, entering the closing quarter, but it was Urhan who finished the stronger, boosted by a 48th minute goal from Finbarr O’Dwyer after Adrigole keeper, Eamon Jer O’Sullivan, pulled off two superb saves.
The final few minutes proved hectic as Adrigole went in search of a winning goal and had chances only for an injury-time point from Urhan to clinch the title.
After the game, Patrick Jim O’Sullivan and Beara board chairman Michael Murphy presented the Donal Jim O’Sullivan Cup to Urhan Captain Martin McCarthy. Urhan will play the Carrigdhoun winners, Crosshaven, Ballinhassig or Ballygarvan, in the county.
Seandún champions Ballyphehane, who overcame Douglas B by a point in the final, are scheduled to play the Avondhu winners with Carbery champions KIlmeen taking on their Muskerry equivalent, either Inniscarra or Blarney, and the Duhallow representatives, Kilbrin or Lismire, meeting the Imokilly champions.