THE recent draws for the Cork County Championships threw up several interesting points for the Christmas dinner conversation and beyond as supporters throughout the county look to longer and brighter days and that special feeling the championship time brings.
In all grades, there are a host of hugely attractive and ultra-competitive games, with several repeat pairings from 2022 and some fascinating new clashes on the horizon.
Group A of the Intermediate Hurling Championship has given us a set of fixtures that has certainly caught the eye in East Cork as local trio Youghal, Lisgoold and Aghada are all bracketed with Aghabullogue from the Muskerry division. Agahda and Lisgoold were together in 2022 when they were joined by Midleton and Blackrock, whilst Youghal's relegation adds a new spark to the group. Aghabollogue for their part will present a big challenge to all three teams, having narrowly lost out to eventual champions Dungounrey in the knockout stages of the last campaign.
Youghal's involvement is particularly interesting, they will be looking for a fast return to intermediate ranks having hit a poor run of form in recent seasons. They have however a hugely exciting crop of young players coming through their ranks, who have impressed with success in Rebel Og ranks. In 2023 the team management will be able to employ a number of players who have graduated from U17 ranks and will be looking to be involved in some capacity with the senior team.
The club will have to make more room in the trophy cabinet this winter after they enjoyed a summer to remember at underage level. U15 Premier 2 hurling and U15 football county honours, U16 Premier 2 hurling success and eastern football glory along with U17 Division 1 county league and championship hurling honours and U17 Eastern football league silverware were all achieved in a golden few months for the seaside club. Now the challenge is to keep the conveyor belt moving and keep the players involved at adult level, says club officer Alan Hennessy.
"We don't yet know if we will have U21 and U18 competitions - these are absolutely essential, but the uncertainty with the age structures is not helping at present."
Cork minor James Murray, U17 full-back and captain Bobby Nicholson along with Jason Innes, Conor Galvin and Chris Buckley will be the new faces in pre-season training come January and their inclusion should give the entire panel a welcome boost, as will the return to fitness of Bill Cooper.
For intermediate team boss Brendan Ring - the planning starts now ahead of league and championship action which seems far away on the horizon. By the time championship arrives in late summer, league games against Aghabullogue, Ballinhassig, Ballyhea, Cloyne, Kildorrery, Lisgoold, Milford, St Catherine's and Valley Rovers should give a better indication of the Seasiders' capabilities.
The team manager will be joined by his brother Barry, John Ward, Aine Martin and Cathal O'Laochdha in an unchanged Youghal sideline in 2023.
At the top table, Stephen Twomey has stepped down as chairman following the completion of his three-year term, with Alan Geary moving into the hot seat. John O'Sullivan and Declan Hennessy remain in their respective secretary and treasurer positions.
In advance of the new season all at Youghal GAA wil have an opportunity to celebrate the great underage success of 2022 at a special Awards function which has been pencilled in for Saturday, January 28 at Club Áras. It promises to be a memorable occasion as the club pays tribute to the young players who have put the club back in the headlines.
Who knows a famous name from another sporting code may even pay a visit? The recently retired champion jockey Davy Russell may now be seen more frequently around Youghal GAA fields to continue his association with the U8 brigade.
Finally, Youghal GAA members were again to the fore at the seasonal events which were due to take place over the holiday season. The annual fundraising bag pack took place at the local branch of SuperValu, where all strands of the club including camogie and ladies football were playing their part.