THERE were some interesting takes in recent days on the chances of the Cork hurlers and footballers in the forthcoming championship.
The championship might still be the best part of over three months away but the countdown is starting to get underway.
In a splendid interview in the Sunday Mail, former Cork football boss Billy Morgan gave his viewpoint on why he believes the footballers have a great opportunity of putting Kerry out of the chase at the first time of asking in the semi-final of the Munster championship when the sides collide in November in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Morgan stated: “I will be quite honest, I think Cork have a glorious opportunity this year.
“A lot of people are saying that the back door is bad for Cork but I would be looking at this as a marvellous opportunity.
“One game against Kerry and you beat them, they are gone. They won’t be coming back to beat you in an All-Ireland semi-final or final.
“And I really believe that they have a great chance this year provided that they can beat Kerry.
“I am in favour of a knockout championship. There is no back door, no safety net, just go out and do it, if you don’t you are gone.
“The knockout system favours the underdogs. They might beat a shark once in a while but if the shark is not gone, the chances are it will come back to bite you.’’
Morgan certainly makes a very relevant point and he would have a lot of support in his viewpoint.
A knockout game in any code has an extra appeal, everything is on the line, it’s all or nothing on the day.
You prepare for that day like no other.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the new format and the round-robin format in hurling has been a tremendous success in the two seasons it has been implemented.
It has generated substantial funds that the clubs benefit from and that’s a great thing but that knockout game or games had a special aura about them.
And it’s going to be very interesting to see how that all or nothing Cork, Kerry showdown is going to go.
It certainly adds a huge appeal to the game and, hopefully, when the time comes Pairc Ui Chaoimh will be able to house a big audience.
Meanwhile, on the hurling front, former Limerick boss Tom Ryan is not as optimistic about the Cork hurlers.
In a national paper he wrote when assessing the Munster championship.
“There are a lot of whispers about Cork going in the right direction but I believe the core is gone out of Cork hurling, that real core that brought them their All-Irelands.
“They had this inner strength and confidence that made them a team to be feared but it’s no longer there now.’’
Ryan’s comments will be taken by a grain of salt by Cork fans and only time will tell whether he was making any sense.
For what it’s worth the belief here is that this is the most level playing field for a long time in the hurling championship.
That applies in both provinces with Cork having as good a chance as the next team Ryan took Limerick to two All-Ireland finals in 1994 and 1996 but they lost both, throwing away the final against Offaly in ’94 when Eamon Cregan was in charge of the Faithful county.
He is a genuine hurling man and calls it as he sees it in his weekly Daily Mail column.
There are many in Cork and outside the county who would not agree with his thoughts but he’s just giving his opinion.
He did make the valid point, however, that too much is expected now on inter-county players, that their training regime is gone too far altogether.
A recent ESRI report highlighted how top GAA stars devote 31 hours a week to the game, that averages out at four and a half hours a day over seven days. Surely that is pure madness.
One might say if a player wants to do that, fair enough but how long can that last.
Not so long ago I spoke to a former very prominent inter-county player who told me that he was glad that his time had passed.
He said that during his time he derived great enjoyment out of training and playing and he questioned whether the players of today got that same enjoyment.
We have to accept that in the sporting arena across the landscape everything has changed, life itself has changed and if you don’t move with the times you will be left behind.
But lines have to be drawn too and it has been proved that almost non-stop preparation does not always yield the required dividend.