THE Corn Uí Mhuirí is back.
The premier Munster colleges competition gets underway this week with a number of high profile figures at the helm of some of Kerry's participating schools. New Kerry senior football boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice, for example, takes charge of Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne and Harry O'Neill joins the backroom set-up of St Brendans College, Killarney.
Fitzmaurice fulfils a long standing commitment to take charge of the defending champions Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne from John Flannery who were oh so close to making last year's Hogan Cup Final.
Despite a number of departures from last year's panel such as Gavin Ó Currain, Tomas Ó Ciobhain, Padraig Ó Se and Micheal Ó Flannura, Fitzmaurice still has some players of Kerry minor quality to work with not least Cathal Ó Luing and Eanna Ó Conchuir, while Tomas and Barra Ó Suilleabhain were two of the other younger players to impress in last year's campaign for a school that have made such great progress in a relatively short time in this hugely competitive competition.
While the West Kerry school have to negotiate a group containing the West Limerick and North Clare Colleges along with Clonmel first, a potential meeting with the Sem in the knock-out stages would really set the pulses racing.
Harry O'Neill makes his first foray into colleges football management replacing Kieran Hurley at the Killarney school, who are looking to regain the momentum and drive that brought them to Hogan Cup Finals in both 2008 and 2010.
Kerry minors Conor Keane and Kieran Murphy lead the Sem challenge this year with Jason Lynch, Diarmuid Galvin and James McCarrick among the players to look out for in this campaign as well. Pobalscoil will be the least of the Sem's concerns at the outset however as they have a crunch Group Stage meeting with Tralee CBS to think about first.
Fergus Clifford remains in charge of the Green. Although Niall Sheehy has left from last year's team, there remains a strong panel. One that contains some key figures in the Kerry minor set-up as well such as Shane O'Connor, Greg Horan and Jack Savage. Mike Wrenn and Ronan Quill are also likely to make an impact for the Tralee school this year. The Green will be looking firstly to get back to a final they have struggled to make since 2008 despite being hotly tipped every year to do so.
Skibbereen are the other team in the group and will likely take beating by either of the two Kerry schools with St Brendans sitting out today's opening round and Tralee CBS trying their luck against the West Cork school.
While most pundits would predict any of the three aforementioned schools as being the best chance of the Kingdom retaining the coveted Corn Uí Mhuirí crown, Colaiste Na Sceilge and Intermediate School Killorglin start the year as very much the outside bets for the Kerry challenge.
The South Kerry school are in a tricky group involving St Flannans of Clare and Colaiste Chriost Rí of Cork while the Mid Kerry school come up against West Clare Colleges, last year's runners-up De La Salle Macroom and Rochestown CBS in the other four team group. Dan Fitzpatrick is in charge of Colaiste Na Sceilge this year having assumed the role from John Shanahan and being involved in some of the school's underage teams up along.
Na Sceilge are likely to set advancement from the
Group Stages as a big achievement as they have a very young side containing Conor O'Shea, Fionnan Clifford and Sean O'Sullivan amongst others in what will be a very difficult ask for the 2009 Hogan Cup winners.
The team they beat in that year's Corn Uí Mhuirí Final, Intermediate School Killorglin have failed to reach that level since and they will be looking for Devon Flaherty to lead a very young team that contains players such as Liam Carey and Gary Murphy.
Advancement from the Group Stages would also be a huge achievement for Killorglin as they very much look to hold onto their place at the top level of Munster Colleges Football.
The defending champions Pobalscoil travel east to play the West Limerick schools in Castleisland today at 1.30pm, the Tralee CBS versus Skibbereen games takes place in Templenoe at the same time while Colaiste Na Sceilge and Intermediate School Killorglin both travel to Limerick for their opening matches.
IS Killorglin are in Glin to play the West Clare Colleges, while Na Sceilge are not too far away in Abbeyfeale to face St Flannans also with 1.30pm starts.