Preparations are well underway for the 2017 Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup ahead of this year’s competitions. For UCC they will be chasing their first Sigerson title since 2014, and first Fitzgibbon title since 2013.
Following an abysmal 2016 for both college teams, which saw UCC failing to make the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon weekends, and means both sides will surely be rearing to go in January. While the words ‘famine’ and ‘drought’ have been commonly used terms when talking about Cork GAA in recent years, successes for Cork’s institutions are most important for both the present and future of GAA in Cork.
Currently UCC is bursting with GAA talent, such as Cork stars Ian Maguire, Alan Cadogan and Stephen Cronin, as well as Tipperary’s Peter Acheson and Conor Sweeney, Kerry’s Shane Enright and Paul Geaney, and Kilkenny’s John Power. If UCC are to provide a solid foundation, and attract some of the brightest prospects in GAA, a strong winning mentality is crucial.
It is an unrealistic challenge to set both UCC teams year after year; what is achievable is year-on-year title challenges, and featuring regularly at the latter stages of the competitions, hopefully off the back of strong league campaigns. With this consistency institutions like UCC can continue to attract some of the finest names in GAA.
Between the colleges there is a strong tradition is alive of successes, but Dublin’s superstardom in football, and the rise of hurling in Limerick, threatens to grab of some of the games’ top players. Names in Dublin such as Sigerson winner Jack McCafferty have become household names in Dublin, while Kilkenny players Cillian Buckley and Laois hurler & All Star nominee Donie Kingston have all been selected to play for UCD. Hurling’s rise on Shannonside through Limerick Ard Scoíl Rí’s Harty Cup successes and Limerick’s All Ireland under-21 success in 2015, right up to UL’s Fitzgibbon successes in 2015, have all brought a new aura of success to one of Cork’s biggest rivals. They are counties and institutions where success and opportunity has become one, with GAA in Cork and UCC in danger of being left behind.
The old proverb “success breeds success” rings true for GAA institutions and Cork: to lure players into Cork, and to play for UCC, a culture of a winning mentality needs to develop and solidify itself – not just to attract players, but to keep the successes and traditions alive on Leeside.