For recent winners of the Cork Premier Intermediate Football Championship, consolidation at senior level wasn’t the priority it should have been.
With relegation off the table, new entrants to the senior championship knew, that win or lose, their place in the highest rank was safe and secure.
Fermoy are the most recent side to join the elite of Cork football. Actual relegation may once again be on hold, but given a restructured championship format will come into play for 2020, seven of the current 19 senior clubs will find themselves on the next rung of the ladder at the end of this year.
Consolidation is not a word Fermoy manager Mick Hennessy is particularly fond of. That was never going to be their target for 2019. What the restructuring means, however, is that they’ll probably need to make this year’s quarter-finals to be involved in the 12-team Premier senior competition in 2020. Should they fail to reach the last eight, the grading process to be applied by board chiefs will likely see Fermoy competing in the Senior A championship next season.
His view is that Fermoy didn’t win the premier intermediate championship to find themselves back in the second tier a year or so later, albeit a more condensed and competitive second tier.
“If we can impose ourselves on the senior championship and try to become a force in the next two to three years, that’s what we want,” said Hennessy, a day before county board secretary Kevin O’Donovan unveiled the various proposed changes to the local championship model.
There’s been enough of that going on in years past.
“Very much so. We’re the opposite of that. We’re trying to progress. It might take a couple of years. We could have a fantastic year this year and, then, next year, we could find ourselves in trouble, or the other way around.”
Sunday represents a senior football championship fixture for the first time in 54 years. The draw, which pitted them against last year’s beaten semi-finalists Castlehaven, will be a baptism of fire.
“We were inside in the gym the night the draw was made. The hurlers, first, were drawn against Courcey Rovers and there was a roar when that was announced. There was a fierce roar when we got Castlehaven. Isn’t it great to measure yourself and where you are? Senior championship is senior championship, there is no easy draw. Castlehaven have five or six inter-county players so no doubt we will be up against it. We are looking to give it a shot and see where we are.”
Castlehaven will also provide the perfect litmus test to see whether Fermoy have improved in the physical stakes. Following defeat to Kilcummin in last year’s Munster IFC decider, this was an area the players felt needed work. To that end, management enlisted the services of Fermoy native Paul Howard, who is currently involved in the Tipperary senior football set-up.
“We have gone away and worked on it in the off-season. It is a two-year project. We’ve started this year and, hopefully, we might reap some rewards this year. I rang Paul up, he’s a friend of mine, and asked him would he get involved. He approached Liam Kearns and asked was it possible to spend a bit of time at home to give something back to the club. Paul is looking after the aspect of physicality and managing players. Being a dual club, you have to be so careful. You could have lads playing two matches in a week. You’ve to watch their intake and all of that. We started back later than usual and what we did was book into Paul’s gym, Rejuvenate Health and Fitness, every Tuesday and Friday for the month of January.
“Normally, you’d be hitting the pitch the first or second week of January and you’d be tearing into it, but there is more of a science to it now. Paul is a different voice and for the players, that is a huge thing. Getting a few league wins, the buzz is really starting to pick up again. The town is looking forward to the championship.”