With precisely no time to spare in a freshly condensed inter-county season, it all began again yesterday in Bekan, at the NUIG Air Dome where three Connacht SHL games were played.
An expanded programme in this year’s football championship, where the number of matches rises from 60 to 99, takes the number of inter-county games that will be played between yesterday and July 30 to almost 500.
What’s on this week?
Between inter-county pre-season competitions in both codes and all four provinces, and All-Ireland club football semi-finals at junior, intermediate and senior levels, some 44 football and hurling games are slated between yesterday and next Sunday evening.
Are the All-Ireland champions in action?
In football, yes. Kerry start their 2023 campaign tomorrow away in Páirc Uí Rinn against Cork in the first round of the McGrath Cup, one of the three competitions they won last year.
A repeat clean sweep might be asking a bit much, though. Kerry have just returned from their team holiday.
Limerick’s hurlers aren’t back in competitive action until Sunday week.
Anything else of note?
As January fare goes, a couple of tomorrow evening’s O’Byrne Cup fixtures could make for interesting viewing. Dublin play Wicklow in Baltinglass in what will be Oisín McConville’s first match as an inter-county manager.
It’s also not beyond the bounds of possibility that Jack McCaffrey lines out for his third coming with the Dubs after togging out in the recent David Hickey Cup, a regional tournament that serves as a de facto trial competition for Dublin management to run the rule over players.
Colm O’Rourke (away to Carlow), Dessie Dolan (away to Louth), Paddy Christie (away to Laois) and John Hegarty (home to Kildare) also start life as inter-county managers tomorrow evening.
As do Vinny Corey and Conor Laverty in the McKenna Cup. Former Meath boss Andy McEntee begins a new managerial life with Antrim in the Athletic Grounds.
And in hurling?
The clash of the week, potentially, is in Fraher Field tonight. Liam Cahill takes a young Tipperary team to Waterford to face the county he managed for the past three years and possibly some of the players he took to an All-Ireland SHC final in 2020.
In the opposite dugout will be Davy Fitzgerald, back in Waterford for a second stint. He coached the Cork camogie team last year but it was the first season Fitzgerald hasn’t been part of a men’s senior inter-county team since before his playing days.
His levels of enthusiasm and motivation should be suitably replenished for the season ahead.
On Sunday afternoon in Callan, Kilkenny take the field for the first time in 25 years without Brian Cody as their manager, when Derek Lyng starts his tenure in a Walsh Cup meeting with Offaly.
What about TV coverage?
Both AIB All-Ireland club senior football semi-finals will be screened by TG4 on Sunday.
Kilmacud Crokes (Dublin) and Kerins O’Rahillys (Kerry) throws in at 1.30. Moycullen (Galway) and Glen (Derry) starts at 3.30.
It’s rare that any of the inter-county pre-season competitions get the live TV treatment although this year’s O’Byrne Cup final, fixed for Friday, January 20, is expected to be shown on TG4.