THERE'S such a genuine unease about getting carried away with anything leaning towards positivity in a league campaign for Cork hurlers that any signs of hope or encouragement are normally stamped with so many asterisks as to make them worthless.
And still, last weekend, as Kilkenny showed how their mentality is still such a factor and TJ Reid showed it is possible to score penalties in hurling if you just hit them really really hard into the corner.
Cork hurling fans got a little glimpse of what can happen when the right players come along and can influence games in the right ways and if it’s all too early to be proclaiming sure things, then Luke Meade is making the sort of impression that can’t be ignored.
Cork don’t have superstars right now – not compared to the likes of Gleeson or Hogan or Callinan – and that’s probably not what they need but if they can bring enough youngsters through like Meade and maybe Shane Kingston then at least Cork hurling fans have something to get behind and excited about.
That’s more or less all they’ve been looking for.
There’s something about Meade right now anyway, where he’s in that perfect run of form and energy and touch where he looks ahead of most people on the field in general play - his goal last Sunday showcased that completely.
The crossfield ball popped loose to no obvious danger yet Meade exploded at proper speed into the gap, took exactly the first touch he needed to take to get himself through one-on-one and then fairly thumped the finish to the goal.
It’s a decent instinct to have in a team that’s not been known for leaving a trail of goals behind them and if Meade can bring that directness and willingness to make holes in defences it’d be extremely welcome.
In the very first minute of the game you can see him arriving again at speed to support Alan Cadogan and again he’d have been breaking lines in danger areas for opposition if Cadogan had control of the ball to pass on.
The only other goal Cork have in the league came from a support run down the middle from Meade where he committed the defenders and opened up the chance for Shane Kingston to tuck away at home to the Dubs.
He’s scored goals for Cork at minor level and Mary I at Fitzgibbon level and a couple of years back had a hat-trick against Limerick seniors and if Meade isn’t a 1-6 sort of scoring forward he could offer an awful lot as a consistent 0-2 scoring forward who makes that a 1-1 or 1-2 reasonably regularly.
Goals aren’t even necessarily his strongest selling point and still they’re tangible effects he’s having on games.
Jamie Wall (and the management team at Mary I rate Meade very highly indeed) put up a video of a goal Meade got in the Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final this year, where again he made a run from deep in front of the goals, took a pass from the right wing and showed wonderful touch and composure to finish to the net.
That touch is an obvious starting point for any top level hurler in the game now and Meade has that knack to be able to take the ball from a crowded area and make space by strong execution of basic first touch.
At one point last Sunday a puckout was batted loose in Waterford’s half-back line which Meade pounced on to flick the sliothar away to himself.
Another flick up from the ground to his hands gave simple possession and after drawing two defenders he then dinked a little stick pass to Bill Cooper (who’d sneaked around the wing) for a point.
Meade put himself in the vicinity of the ball all day around the middle third and that’s only in keeping with his previous performances where he’s managed to create a free half-forward role that also contributes with scores and assists.
Look, he gives Cork a lot of options now and there’s this sense of being an ideal modern game hurler.
Ask people in Newcestown and they’ll tell you he can do a serious job anywhere on the field with those ball skills and awareness.
Hamilton High School played him midfield in a Harty Cup run a few years back and he did a wonderful sweeper job, mopping up and distributing ball in front of his defence.
Just before half-time last weekend he popped up in the full-forward line as a sort of runner into space, won possession from a long pass and gave the ball back outside for a score.
So if Meade mightn’t be someone to dominate a game like Austin Gleeson just yet that’s a fairly extensive list of potential talents and jobs he can do on this Cork team - goalscorer, goal creator, ballwinning target in full-forward line, direct runner from deep, loose ball winner, linkman, playmaker.
A first touch to die for.
The hook/block/ tackle count won’t be a problem, a turnover which led to a Cadogan score against Clare springs to mind for workrate and ground covered is right up there with the top guys in the group.
Wall referenced Meade recently as playing hurling the “right way” and if that’s quite a concept, then you can see what he meant – that bright snappy clever way of getting on possession and then moving ball to the next guy and having the skills to allow him make the right decision on the ball again and again.
Cork have seen some next-big-things come through but have struggled to even allow them become solid intercounty hurlers.
We’ll hope that Meade’s emergence might signal the start of a next generation of just very skillful, very decent ballplayers – Cork can never get enough of those.