The west Cork outfit have haemorrhaged players on both the men’s and women’s side over the summer, a combination of emigration, retirements and stars moving on.
The club’s first senior Ireland men’s international, Alastair Smith, has moved to Cork Church of Ireland while Andrew Scannell (UCC), Darren Beamish (year out) and Ireland U18 tyro Scott Sullivan (Australia) are among others to jump ship. As a result, Bandon have seen their opening fixture pushed back to October 20 as they require extra time to prepare their first team.
Things are arguably bleaker on the women’s side, with a staggering nine of last year’s first-team panel gone by the wayside, including talismanic trio Hilary Chapple, Ciara Harte and Ciara McCarthy.
Coach John Dennis has thus revised expectations downwards, with survival now the goal. A first-day trip to champions Catholic Institute — who have lost Ciara Ronan, Róisín Upton and Claire Sullivan but otherwise retain the majority of the side who maintained a 100% record last term — tomorrow could be a painful one for Bandon.
Limerick have the easier opening day task of the newly-promoted sides, with John Meyler taking his troops across town to last season’s surprise package UL.
Fermoy, who now have Mark Egner taking the coach’s clipboard, face a baptism of fire away to a Cork Harlequins side who made star signings in Ali O’Regan (UCC) and Alex O’Grady (C of I) and have Irish international defensive linchpin Cliodhna Sargent available for the foreseeable future, although Karen Bateman has slipped back into retirement.
Ashton and UCC have recruited well and will get a first taste of how well their sides are gelling when they meet at the Mardyke.
Cork C of I — now under the stewardship of Eddie Kirwan, also the boss of Cork senior football side Nemo Rangers — have welcomed back club stalwarts Ali O’Connor, Melanie Ryan and Sandra Hackett.
They are off-duty this weekend so have an extra week to prepare.
The men’s league gets off to a low-key start with C of I taking on Quins seconds while Quins firsts meet C of I’s second string.
Elsewhere, Munster players and clubs featured prominently — including all four nominees for the senior men’s player of the year — in the shortlists for the Irish Hockey Awards, which will take place on October 20.