NUMEROUS newspaper columns and social media posts were filed following the Cork GAA senior footballers defeat to Meath in their National League Division 1 opener at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
In one afternoon, cautious optimism generated from a positive pre-season that delivered McGrath Cup success and victory over an understrength Kerry was instantly deflated.
Hopefully, a long and potentially productive league campaign awaits John Cleary and his senior panel. One or two setbacks don’t ruin a season. Bouncing back from adversity and performing consistently will be the immediate goals for Cleary ahead of the provincial championships.
That same level of optimism will be present in the dressing rooms of every club limbering up to compete in the 2023 Cork LGFA county leagues.
A decent run in the first of the year’s LGFA competitions coupled with qualifying for the knockout stages and a final can have a galvanising effect.
Éire Óg and Glanmire contested last year’s Division 1 League decider with the former triumphing 3-10 to 0-6. Both clubs built on the momentum of their respective league campaigns to qualify for senior and intermediate county finals.
Despite each side coming up short, momentum gained in the early weeks of the year helped two youthful panels make their mark come championship. At a minimum, Éire Óg and Glanmire and will be hoping for more of the same in 2023.
As with every rule, there are some exceptions. Perennial county champions Mourneabbey versus St Val’s in last season’s Cork LGFA Division 1 league relegation play-off was a rare and unusual sight.
Shane Ronayne’s decision not to include his Mourneabbey inter-county contingent and more experienced players for the league programme, ultimately, had the desired effect.
Once championship rolled around, the core of the North Cork club’s starting fifteen were rested and the panel back to full strength. A Laura Fitzgerald hat-trick helped Mourneabbey overcome Éire Óg in the senior county decider to claim an eighth title in nine years.
Shane Ronayne has moved on from a trophy-laden period in charge of Mourneabbey’s all-conquering setup. The Cork LGFA senior manager’s influence will be sorely missed. Yet there is too much quality within the reigning title-holders' setup not to have a major say in this year’s league and county championships.
Castlehaven defeated fellow divisional rivals Dohenys 4-10 to 3-5 to add a Division 2 county league trophy to their intermediate county and West Cork Division 1 success during 2022.
Dinny Cahalane’s side have been on an unbelievable run in recent times. Getting an early opportunity to (possibly) face the likes of Mourneabbey, Éire Óg, Bride Rovers, Inch Rovers or Aghada will let a determined Castlehaven know what to expect once the championship starts.
The Haven are not entering the senior ranks or Division 1 to make up the numbers. That’s why the early weeks of this year’s league should make for intriguing viewing with the Castletownshend-Union Hall club involved.
Fellow West Cork LGFA Division 1 sides Clonakilty, Kinsale and Valley Rovers will also be looking to kick-start their respective campaigns in positive fashion.
Clon reached the semi-finals of last year’s Division 1 league only to come up short to Glanmire by three points. The Brewery Town were equally disappointed not to emerge from Group 2 of the senior championship but rebounded to reach the senior B county final.
Fermoy edged a cracking encounter 1-16 to 1-13 in MTU but Clonakilty, boosted by emerging minor inter-county talents Millie Condon, Síofra Pattwell and Katie O’Driscoll, have enough quality to improve on last season’s showing.
2022 was a transitional year for a young Valley Rovers panel. Two Division 1B league victories helped stave off relegation. Unfortunately, a tough senior county Group 1 draw saw Rovers fail to register a victory and lose out to Inch Rovers, 5-11 to 4-7, in a relegation play-off.
Facing senior clubs in the early rounds of this year’s league should help Valley’s IFC preparations.
Despite positive showings, Kinsale narrowly missed out on both Division 1 and senior county semi-final berths last year.
Clonakilty ended Kinsale’s hopes in the senior B championship but with Orla Finn freed up from inter-county commitments and an influx of youth from the club’s minor ranks, Kinsale will remain tough opponents to crack.