If the hurling season returns, Cork will need more quality options to compete

If the hurling season returns, Cork will need more quality options to compete
Cork manager Kieran Kingston on the sideline in the Rebels' last league game, a loss to Galway. When will they play again? Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

IT'S a near certainty now that the National Hurling and Football League for this season will not be completed.

As far as the hurling league is concerned, a slight window of opportunity does exist as there are only five games left to play in the top two divisions, two quarter-finals involving Wexford against Galway and Kilkenny against Waterford.

The winners of those two ties will meet Clare in one semi-final and Limerick in the other.

It is still a wait-and-see situation of course but if the league does not resume and a decision was taken to award the trophy on the basis of the five games that have been played in each group, who would end up with it?

That scenario seems fairly clear cut, Limerick with five wins from five games, should be awarded the silverware.

Clare lost just the one game under Brian Lohan and looked quite impressive at various stages as did Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford.

Cork, Tipperary and Dublin didn’t even reach the knock out stages so they could not be in contention.

That brings us back to Limerick and why they should be awarded the title if the rest of the competition could not be concluded.

The opening 35 minutes of their campaign, their first game against Tipperary did not go well and at half time in that game, they were eight or nine points in arrears and had scored only four.

Thereafter though, it was an entirely different story as they turned the game on its head and ended up being very impressive winners.

They subsequently defeated Galway, Waterford and Westmeath, sometimes playing some wonderful hurling and putting up equally superb scores with the likes of Graeme Mulcahy, Gearoid Hegarty and Adrian Gillane in sublime form.

Their play was a joy to behold at times. Their movement on the ball and off it and the depth of their panel was clearly evident.

Right now, you would have to say that their panel is definitely the strongest in the game.

Its highly likely, of course, that if the competition is not concluded that the trophy will remain in cold storage and this league season will be declared null and void.

Limerick, though, would be deserving winners if a decision was taken to award the silverware on the basis of what has transpired in the group stages.

In those five games John Kiely’s men have sent out a loud and clear message that they are firmly focused on bigger things in the summer months.

However, to repeat we have to stress that everything is up in the air right now and may be so for quite some time.

In the games that have been played the various team managers would have learned plenty of bits and pieces, some a lot more than others.

The object of any league campaign is primarily to deepen the pool of players at your disposal.

A squad has really got be embellished every season, two or three additions being added to challenge those holding the jersey.

Cork rely too much on Patrick Horgan. Picture: INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy
Cork rely too much on Patrick Horgan. Picture: INPHO/Brian Reilly-Troy

Here in Cork, has that been the case?

Hard to say really but come championship time the likelihood is that the bulk of last season's first 15 will be on the starting block again.

It’s probably a year too soon for the likes of Deccie Dalton, Brian Turnbull, Conor Cahalane and others.

But then again, the management team are much more in the know than we are.

Of course, the restriction now of not having any collective training over the coming weeks is going to have an effect.

There are still two months until the start of the championship season and a lot can be learned on the training ground in that time. Players might be able to show something that might be able to bring them into the equation.

There is always extra focus with a new management set up and one of those teams is Galway.

They had a very inauspicious start to the league losing to Waterford and Limerick.

However, they finished the campaign on a very high note with two big wins over Cork and Tipperary and would have been looking forward to playing Wexford in the quarter-final.

New boss Shane O'Neill, a surprise replacement for Micheál O’Donoghue has given players like Brian Concannon and Evan Niland their opportunity and they have been two of the stand out players so far.

Every season, it’s always very much a trip into the unknown with Galway. On their day they can beat any team in the country and there is hurling talent to burn in the county. 

However, as we saw last season they can fall flat and their failure to come out of Leinster last season was a big surprise.

Before the season was called to a halt the expectation was that we were set for one of the most thrilling championships in recent memory in both Munster and Leinster with all the leading teams believing that they can be in the chase for the top honours.

That may well happen come May, June, July and August but right now the only certainty is the uncertainty.

The same applies across the sporting landscape but the health of all sportsmen and women is the primary concern at this point in time.

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