Six years after leaving Ireland to join AFL side Carlton, Ciarán Sheehan returned to the Cork colours in late December when he lined out at full-forward against Kerry in the McGrath Cup.
His time with Carlton ended in 2017, bring to a close four years pockmarked by injuries. In all, he underwent seven surgeries, including ones on his hip and knee, during his Aussie rules career.
Good to be back!!! pic.twitter.com/NGy0PMxIZJ
— Ciaran Sheehan (@Gussyman90) January 8, 2020
Sheehan played 55 minutes against Kerry, scoring a point. Barring further injury troubles, he should be a significant addition to the Rebel panel this year.
Cork teammate Mark Collins knows Sheehan well. They played together from under-14 up and both made their Cork senior debuts early in the last decade.
"Absolutely brilliant to have him back," Collins said at the launch of the 2020 Allianz Football League on Thursday.
"He's a model professional, everything he does is spot on and he's great for the younger players in the panel too. Even the way he speaks around the place is a huge boost. Obviously he has serious potential as a footballer and talent as a footballer. It's a massive boost to have him back.
"He fitted in straight away again with us. I thought it might take it a bit of time for him to get used to Gaelic football again but, to be honest, he's been very sharp since he came back. He's in great condition. We're really looking forward to playing with him again."
After relegation to Division 3 of the league last year, getting back to Division 2 was always going to be a priority for Cork. That has become even more necessary with the introduction of the Tier 2 Championship and its participants being linked to their league status.
Division 1 and 2 teams will next year compete for Sam Maguire with Division 3 and 4 teams playing in the lower tier unless they reach their provincial final. With Cork scheduled to play Kerry in the Munster semi-final, it makes promotion all the more important.
In attendance at the Allianz Football League 2020 launch in Dublin is Mark Collins of Cork. 2020 marks the 28th year of Allianz’s partnership with the GAA as sponsors of the Allianz Leagues. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
"Every year when you start off the league is important to you," said Collins.
"Last year was obviously disappointing to get relegated down to Division 3. There's probably an added significance with the top two promoted getting into Sam Maguire. There's only one way we can fix that and that's to go back up, but we have to start well.
"I was thinking there coming up today we probably haven't won our first game in the league in three or four years so the Offaly game in two weeks' time is probably a good place to start, so that's something to look forward to.
"I suppose if you looked at it three, four, five years ago, Cork were competing for Division 1 titles on a continuous basis. That's where a county the size of Cork should be. Unfortunately, the last few years haven't gone as planned and it's probably time to start putting things right now."