Big things were expected but it didn’t go according to plan for Na Piarsaigh last year, especially after reaching the Cork SHC semi-final in 2017.
Losing to Bandon and Bride Rovers in round one and two left them in a relegation play-off with Carrigtwohill, where they prevailed by a single point.
They endured tough times in the Premier IFC as well. It is early days yet, but so far, so good. They secured an opening round win in the PIFC over Aghada after extra-time. And while not getting their first taste of senor hurling championship action until tomorrow against Killeagh, their league form is promising — four victories out of five leaves them top of Division 1.
Liam Martin is part of a new hurling backroom team along with John Gardiner (senior) and Bill Kelleher:
We are going very well in the league,” he said. “We are delighted with it, especially after last year. We brought in a new management team of John, Bill, and myself. Éamonn Ryan is the coach coordinator with Mark Mullins.
“Éamonn has been with us going back over the years. We approached him again this year and he came back in that capacity. It is great to have the likes of Mark Mullins back involved with the club. Liam O’Connor is our new fitness coach and doing a great job.
“Things didn’t click for us last year. We just snuck past Carrigtwohill, and once we got over that we took a break. We had a long chat about it in the club and regrouped this year.
“Things have freshened up a bit. Eamonn is very experienced as a coach and players listen to him. They are all young and they are enthusiastic. We will see where it goes from there.
“We had a young team out in the football first round against Aghada too. They weren’t expecting anything. They were in a relegation battle also last year. So it just proved what confidence can do.
“As always, there are a lot of dual players and that is something we have to manage, and there is U21 football championship ahead of the senior hurling championship. Basically you have to see where fellas need to go and who needs to do what.”
So, what do they expect from Killeagh in the first round?
You know what you are going to get off Killeagh — a battle. If we scrape through by a point like we did against Carrigtwohill last year, we would be happy with that.
“That is the aim from the start of the year, to get over Killeagh. There is no point in looking any further because it could be another two or three months before you are back out on the pitch.
“Imokilly are going for three-in-a-row but we don’t look that far ahead. An awful lot can happen between now and August. Players going away, players getting injured, you don’t know what is going to happen. Imokilly are still without a doubt hot favourites, but they are still beatable on the day.
“There is a new system for the last few years. That is something clubs have to manage. If you get over the first round, and even if you don’t get over the first round, you still have the whole summer to look forward to.
“It depends how you manage it. Do you play a couple of league games, a couple of challenge games, take a break for a month, come back? Every club is going to be different with their approach.
“Our panel is still very young. We have the same players that have been there for the last two or three years. The likes of Evan Sheehan, Craig Hanafin, these guys are all only 20. More experienced guys are the likes of Eoin Moynihan, Pa Rourke, even Eddie Gunning, and he is only 22/23.
“The average age of our team is 22. We didn’t realise that until we sat down and took a look at it.”