All credit to you, Andrew, and I suspect you would have put in a lot of effort. You have found new players, but I suspect you had to hunt for them - they didn't come floating in on the tide: an organiser is battling to pull a team together. If there were players queuing up for the honour the organisation would be much less of a problem.
I'm only recently back in OTB chess after a gap of about 30 years. Last year I played for Lancashire in the U140s and was very pleased to be invited. First match against Yorkshire in the last round of the NCCU stage. Shame I hadn't been in the earlier rounds (oh, there weren't any!). Never mind, we won!!! We're through to the NATIONAL STAGE. [Oh, Yorkshire go through as well. Why did we bother!]. Still it was an enjoyable game. Shame about my fellow club member. I'd got him to volunteer at the last minute. Another player whom I was asked to give transport to dropped out when I told him I wouldn't break the speed limit to get him back earlier. Anyway, my fellow club member got all the way there to find he had no opponent. 4 hours driving and no match.
Finals stage. Home match against Shropshire. Played rather closer to Shropshire than to us so another 4 hours driving for a single game. Well, about 6 actually because we spent an extra two hours stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. My opponent was delighted when we swapped off down to a colourless position with no possibilities for anyone. Quick draw and he could get home early. Sadly, I couldn't. Had a car load. We didn't have a full team (OK fair enough, one of our players had a major personal tragedy on the day, so pretty unavoidable). Anyway we clearly lost. Then we lost some more because we had three disqualifications.
Did I feel as enthusiastic at the end as the beginning? Err. No not really. Mediocre entry. No competition for places. Sense of having to do a favour. Lot of travelling. OK a game, but for a lot less travelling I can go to a weekend congress and get 5 games, many of which will be against new opponents. Chess-wise a better bet.
Didn't play this year. I did get selected again, but had to point out that my grade was too high for the U140s. U160s didn't approach me: dunno if my grade was too low or if nobody thought to look.
Another club colleague plays enthusiastically for Lancashire: his grade is rather higher and the county matches provide his more challenging games and his variety of opponents. I can see that. But at my more humble level is a county championship a well-thought out idea? Is it not an attempt at inclusivity for a half-hearted clientele? If asked next year I'd probably accept the invitation: but I'd think hard about it.
This all seems rather negative, and I don't think of myself as a negative sort of person, so I'll finish with a couple of positive ideas thrown out without a lot of critical examination [I'm sure others could provide that
a) Change of Format
Instead of several sections (u100, u120, u140 etc) what about a single section with some boards reserved for differing strengths?
A healthy team (maybe even with more boards) might be easier to put together and could encourage other counties to come in.
Don't ask me for exact details - haven't worked that out [at least I'm being honest!]
I do wonder if a better approach to help lower graded people get new opponents and a higher status tournament might be for counties to concentrate on an inter-local-leagues competition.