KIERAN Kingston and his selectors will pick the Cork team for this weekend's Munster semi-final on form and fitness, but not on the basis of a more physical line-up for this unusual winter championship.
Kingston is back at the helm this season after a successful stint in 2016-'17 and is confident the Rebels have a team and panel to deliver at Semple Stadium against Waterford, even without the Rebel masses in the stands and terrace.
"We love going to Thurles and I've never been in a situation where that pitch wasn't presented as a golf green and I've no doubt irrespective of the weather it'll be that way on Saturday.
"League hurling has tended to be over as you're coming into March whereas we're just out of Autumn so I don't see that as a major issue. The pitches will hold up well no matter where we're playing and we've to pick the best team based on who is available. It's not a huge consideration of ours at this particular time."
Cork are without three potential starters, however, Darragh Fitzgibbon (hamstring), Eoin Cadogan (back) and Robbie O'Flynn (suspension).
"Darragh Fitzgibbon is definitely out, Eoin Cadogan is definitely out and Robbie O'Flynn is out through suspension, from the last league game up in Galway on the first of March. It's a bit crazy really in this world, as that was eight months ago. I feel sorry for Robbie because he played a lot in the Fitzgibbon Cup and with us in the league and then had a really good campaign with his club. He'd come in really good shape so I feel sorry for the player."
One major positive is Colm Spillane's recovery from a hand injury that forced him off early in Castlelyons' PIHC final defeat to Blarney. The teak-tough defender had previously missed the whole of the 2019 campaign.
"Colm is back training and is available for selection.
"There are a couple of other players carrying injuries from the club championships, the lads are only back two weeks now from the county finals and we'd a significant number involved at the various grades."
Declan Dalton is among those struggling to be available due to injury, though Blackrock's Daniel Meaney, Tadhg Deasy and Alan Connolly were recently added to the extended panel, with Blarney's Shane Barrett also involved.
Kingston said the split between the club and inter-county seasons, and the round-robin format, was ideal.
"The club campaign was excellent and the format was really, really good. It was the first time in a while I've heard all the Cork players saying they enjoyed it. The form of 99% of our players with their clubs was really good and it gives us a positive challenge.
"A lot of lads put up their hands but it's difficult to get game-time into those new lads in the few weeks you have. Not having a chance to see the U20s limits your options as well as you head into this different season.
"We've a rotating extended panel but you've got to be fair to guys, it's a massive jump from club hurling and it's not just on the field, it's all that goes with it. There's a huge gap and it's not just on the hurling side of things. We've to be fair on how we introduce them to inter-county."
The Tracton native will face a Waterford team without Pauric Mahony through injury, but argued all squads will have issues to get past in this truncated championship year.
"There are challenges: injuries, Covid, the turnaround time between club and county. Every team is in the same boat so the key thing is keeping your players fit and also keeping them close-contact and Covid free to keep the panel together as best we can."