The sponsorship deals signed by Cork GAA this week are a vote of confidence in a ‘new brand’ leading Gaelic games in the county, believes Mark Landers.
And while the former Cork hurling captain admits the county still has “an awful lot of stuff to correct”, he is hopeful that with the right people now in charge there is the kind of momentum that will see a “big change coming down the road”.
Landers, who captained the hurlers to All-Ireland success in 1999, was among the central figures during the first Cork players strike in 2002, and the high-profile battle with the county board.
But after the current Cork regime announced sponsorship deals for the county’s hurling and football championships, Landers says he has been impressed with the work done by current county board officials.
Speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Podcast, Landers said: “There’s been three really good things out of Cork this week. Bon Secours have come on board sponsoring the football. Co-Op Superstores have come on stream to sponsor the hurling.
"And the Irish Examiner have agreed a three-year deal with Cork GAA to stream the matches in hurling and football.
“I think it’s marvellous. I think there’s a new brand coming in Cork right now. The Kevin O’Donovans, the Ronan Dwanes, Tracey Kennedy, the first female chairperson — that generation has started to come in.
“Getting the Bons and the Co-Op is massive. And we also have a lot of giants in Cork; Apple, Jameson, Pfiser, Johnson & Johnson. You’ve international brands that are in Cork.
“There is a huge amount of tradition in Cork with hurling and football. If we could get one of those large sponsors on board with the county board, Cork could go anywhere.
“We have an awful lot of stuff to correct. But we definitely have the numbers.
“The hurling is starting next weekend. We have five grades. That’s massive numbers. We need to start getting to Munster finals and All-Ireland finals from a hurling perspective. But I think there’s a big change coming down the road.”
Looking ahead to this season’s Cork Premier SHC, which gets under way this Friday, Landers doesn't see champions Imokilly adding to the division’s hat-trick of titles.
“I think Imokilly will find it very hard to put four in a row together. If I was doing anything I’d be laying Imokilly not to win the county.
“If I’d an outside fancy, there are two teams: Ben O’Connor is training Midleton and I know the boys have taken to him like a duck to water. They are in really good physical shape.
“Their game against Sars on Friday is an interesting one, It wouldn't surprise me to see Midleton win that one.
“The real outside fancy would be Blackrock. They’ve been to the county final two years ago — could have beaten Imokilly on a given day. They had six players due to go to America but the Covid put a stop to that.
“And they are the biggest, most physical team we have in the county and if any team is to take on Imokilly, it will be Blackrock, led by Fergal Ryan and John Browne.
“They won the league last year and they went up to play Newtownshandrum the weekend after and got caught. I don’t think they’ll get caught this year. They would be an outside fancy for me."