Two years away from the Mayo junior football scene have not diminished Declan Kilkelly's appetite for success. Far from it, in fact. The Castlebar Celtic manager regrets nothing that happened in the two years since the club decided to join the League of Ireland A Division in 2009and then the decision late last year not to commit to a third season in senior football.
"We've been working hard for a good number of weeks and everyone's raring to go," said the Celtic manager. "We've only lost one player – Peter Dravins has opted to play with Mervue, which I've no problem with. I'd prefer if he was still playing with up but I'm delighted he's gone to play at a higher level.
"Against that we've signed a new goalkeeper, Gary Byrne from Straide & Foxford, Alan McDonnell has come back to us, and we've signed Theron Coghill from Ballyheane.
"We have an experienced squad, but the players know you only get out from the game what you put in to it. You have to win the battle first and go on and win the game then."
And now that they're back in it, the aim is to win it.
"Absolutely," agreed Declan. "Anytime we go on the pitch we play to win – that's what it's all about. If you're not trying to win it you shouldn't be in it at all, in my opinion. Absolutely we're going to try to win it."
With only eight teams in the Super League, each game takes on added significance, the Celtic manager observed.
"If you have a bad start you could be out of the title race after a couple of weeks. You have to be on the ball, and I'm sure we will be."
While Declan and his players were away, the club's Super League side did remarkably well to stay in the top division. "Yes, and that should be highlighted," said Declan. "Damien Burke did a fantastic job last year with limited resources. Had they not stayed up we'd be playing in the Premier A division now, which would not be suitable.
"I have to say the players and management did a fantastic job last year. Some of the lads are part of my squad this year, and if you put the work in that's what can happen."
And after a couple of years away from the local scene, Kilkelly is looking forward to renewing a few old rivalries. "Yeah, it's great. I played for over 20 years and those games are great. I've had very good rivalries with people. The players had good respect for each other."
That said, he hopes he doesn't have to play again. Management is his game now. And managing his club to the Super League title is his aim this year. Don't bet against it.