Cork picked a bad time to get relegated to Division 3.

The Rebel County's first trip to the third tier under the current system has coincided with the introduction of the B Championship.

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Despite playing in the Super 8s last year, if Ronan McCarthy's men don't beat Kerry in the Munster SFC semi-final or win promotion straight back to Division 2 then they will not be in the mix for Sam Maguire.

"There's probably an added significance with the top two promoted getting into Sam Maguire," admits stalwart Mark Collins, who is facing his 10th year in the red jersey.

"Every year when you start off the League is important to you. Last year was obviously disappointing to get relegated down to Division 3. 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.

"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."

"We know if we're not switched on, any game is a potential banana skin"

On paper Cork will be favourites to grab one of those top two places but Collins is well aware of the threat the likes of Munster rivals Tipperary, Longford, Down and Derry could pose to their chances.

"We played them (Longford) in the Championship two or three years ago up there and were probably very lucky to come out of it," he tells RTÉ Sport. "We brought on Paddy Kelly at half-time and he changed the game. Only for that we could have been knocked out up there.

"We know if we're not switched on, any game is a potential banana skin.

"The pressure is probably on you every year but we're really looking forward to it. We’ve had a good pre-season and can’t wait to get going in a couple of weeks’ time. Hopefully, we’ll start off on the right foot."

Ciaran Sheehan in action for Cork against Kerry during the McGrath Cup

Cork's chances have been boosted by the return of 2010 All-Ireland winner Ciaran Sheehan after six years in Australia, four of which were spent in the AFL.

"He was my age growing up so I would have played with him since I was under-14," says Collins. "Absolutely brilliant to have him back.

"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.

"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."