THERE will be new junior 'A' grade hurling and football champions in East Cork this year, after both Erin's Own and Cobh have progressed to county premier junior ranks for the season ahead.
Both clubs have been reflecting on a job well done in 2022. In Erin's Own hinterland there was particular reason to celebrate after the club won their first ever county junior hurling title with an epic replay win over Kilshannig.
It comes 17 years after they edged O'Donovan Rossa to win their second junior county football title and all of 28 years from breaking new ground when they overcame Kiskeam to win the coveted county title for the first time.
Meantime, last year's football winners in East Cork, Cobh, may have been disappointed to have come up short in the county final against KIlmurry, but a first divisional title since 1988 meant that their primary aim had been achieved.
The hurling championship in East Cork again provided an abundance of exciting fayre. Even though there are only three first teams now plying their trade at junior level, the competition continually delivers.
Look at Erin's Own - beaten finalists in 2021 against St Ita's - questions might have been asked if they could mount a big challenge again, but what a response. Dividing the ten contenders into two groups kept the field fresh.
Midleton, St Ita's, KIlleagh and Carraig na bhFear were the the teams that joined eventual finalists Erin's Own and Cobh in the knockout stages. With Cobh chasing a big ball/small ball double and Erin''s Own trying to go one step further than twelve months previous, the scene was set for a great hour in Carrigtwohill.
Erin's Own had shown real character to dig in and see off champions St Ita's in a classic semi final and that courage came to the fore again as they produced a great last twenty minutes to sweep to victory, having played second fiddle to their opponents in the first half.
Even an early Cian Spriggs goal for Cobh in the second half failed to rattle Erin's Own. Shane Murphy proved a massive inspiration to the team whilst Mark Collins went on one of his scoring sprees. In the end, there was no denying the merit of the winners' comfortable winning margin.
New challenges await the county champions as they step forward to play against Glen Rovers, Argideen Rangers and Tracton in the premier junior grade. Three tough tests against seasoned opposition, but games which everybody in the Erin's Own ranks will relish.
In football, Cobh's experiences in coming through some very difficult championship ties in last year's East Cork championship should stand them in good stead in the season ahead.
They put a huge amount of work into the campaign and with Declan O'Connell and co still in command, expect that no stone will be left unturned in the desire to make a favourable impression on the county stage.
Cobh's group game against Castlemartyr last season was a superb hour in midsummer and that narrow loss obviously acted as huge motivation for them as they went about defeating the same opposition in convincing fashion in the showpiece final.
A huge crowd gathered at Caherlag in mid September as both finalists looked to end a long period in the football wilderness. Cobh flew out of the traps and two early goals followed by a third before half time put them firmly in control.
As expected Castlemarty never gave up and battled to the end but Cobh had the luxury of those green flags and they were winners long before the final whistle sounded with the scoreboard reading 4-11 to 2-9.
The ""reds will have learnt from their first final appearance since 1991 and like Cobh will be hugely determined to come back and make up for their final loss.
The divisional junior football championship provided plenty of good games in East Cork last year and it looks a wide open grade again in the year ahead.
After their encouraging return to senior football competition last year, the Imokilly team will be very anxious to keep up the positive vibes. Aghada's Eoin O'Neill and his selectors put in a lot of work last year.
They may not have achieved the championship win they craved for but there was no doubting their intentions. A return to action for the first time in a number of seasons saw the East Cork side paired with what turned out to be a very good Carbery side.
The west side won by 2-18 to 1-10 with Imokilly awarded a bye in the next fixture against Muskerry, before then losing a tight match to Avondhu in the semi final.