IT might be 19 years from his championship debut for Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, but Liam Shorten is looking forward to returning to action for the Muskerry club this season.
The Gaeltacht side won their first Comórtas Peile na Gaeltachta senior title last June, beating a fancied Naomh Conaill of Donegal in the final, while in the SAFC quarter-final they were pipped by Knocknagree.
The deputy principal in Coláiste Chríost Rí is hoping the disappointment of their last-eight exit will drive Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh on in 2023.
“Winning the Comórtas Peile was absolutely huge, the first time in the history of the club. It was a great weekend, a real bonding session, but I don’t think that had any knock-on effect for us in the championship.
"We got blown out of it in the first 20 minutes against Knocknagree in the quarter-final, we did settle down, but couldn’t recover from the poor start. Knocknagree were much better than us, physically, fitness, football ability, the whole lot. We left ourselves down. We have analysed the game since, and we hope we have learned valuable lessons from it.”
The new championship structure is working very well and the SAFC grade is one of the most competitive. Last year there wasn’t a kick of the ball between Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, Dohenys, Kiskeam and Bandon in the group. This season should follow a familiar pattern, the Muskerry team grouped with Clyda Rovers, Newmarket and Kiskeam.
“It’s a very difficult championship group no doubt about it, the beauty of a 12-team competition, every team is as good as each other. With St Michael’s winning the SAFC last season every team will fancy winning the county this campaign.
"We have Clyda Rovers up first, we beat them in the quarter-final in 2021, they got to the semi-final in 2022 and have one of the best young forwards in the country in Conor Corbett. We then have two Duhallow teams, Newmarket and Kiskeam, we have plenty of history against the two clubs, they are physical sides but can play football as well. It will be tough to get out of the group but I am confident we will.”
Béal Átha reached the semi-final in 2021.
“Our goal is simple, win the county. Getting out of the group is the first port of call. I wouldn’t be going back pre-season training for the 20th season and driving from Courtbrack to home, which takes an hour, three times a week, if I didn’t think we had a chance. We have the belief we can do something special this year."
Denis Reen, who trained Kiskeam to PIFC glory back in 2016, is heading into his fourth season as coach.
"When Denis came in it was interrupted by Covid-19, so this will be essentially his third season at it and we will feel he’s the man that can push us on. He’s very honest, everything is black and white, you know where you stand. If you’re playing well, you will play. It doesn’t matter if you have played for the club for 10 years or one year, every player gets the same treatment. Hopefully, 2023 will be a special year for us."