THE pre-season for the Cork hurlers is all but done, bar the probability of one more challenge against inter-county opposition, and it will be make-your-mind-up time very shortly for the management, in relation to putting together their squad for the national league.
The bulk of last season’s squad will still be in place and there will be a reliance, again, on the tried-and-trusted players.
John Meyler has used a number of newcomers over the past 10 or 12 days, in the Munster League, against Clare and Waterford, and in the Canon O’Brien Cup game last Sunday, in the Mardyke, against UCC.
The object of these games is to find a couple of newcomers, who might have something to contribute to the secondary competition and subsequently in the championship.
Many will be called to these games, but, at the end of the day, few will be chosen.
That’s not saying that those who don’t make the cut are discarded altogether, because the initial objective was to integrate the players into the system, give them some game time at an elevated level, and provide them with an insight into how the whole operation works.
A lot of the players that saw action in recent weeks will now go back into the under-20 squad, under the guidance of Denis Ring, while, at the same time, their progress will be monitored by the senior selectors.
John Meyler and his team got to see quite a few newcomers in the aforementioned pre-season encounters and they will have been pleased, overall, with how things went.
It’s a vast step-up from these type of games to the white heat of the Munster championship in May and June, but a start must be made somewhere.
Management teams are put in place to see and discover things that the ordinary individual might not, the small things that might make the difference when the bigger questions are asked.
Some of the newcomers who were given their opportunity in Ennis, Mallow, and in the Mardyke did better than others and we will see a few of them get game time over the coming months in the national league.
Cormac Murphy wasn’t a newcomer, having been involved before, and he certainly did nothing wrong in those games, securing scores in all three.
His versatility, too, gives the management extra options.
One of the newcomers who did impress significantly, and who didn’t feature for the U21s last season, was Robert Downey, from the Glen.
A player with a fine physical presence, he did well in the time that was allotted to him and we should see him included in the national league squad.
Deccie Dalton was near impeccable from the placed ball and got a few good scores, too, from open play and it remains to be seen if he gets the call to arms. Conor Cahalane is another strong contender for inclusion.
Patrick Collins remains the established number two to Anthony Nash, while Jamie Coughlan’s experience is very important, too.
One young player who caught the eye up the Dyke last Sunday morning was Simon Kennefick, from the Glen. He knocked over four fine points from play.
He’s probably a bit young to come into the senior squad for the bigger fixtures, but he’s just one of a number of fine, young players that are being integrated into the system.
Cormac Beausang, from Midleton, did well, too, in the game time that he got and his Midleton clubmate, Tommy O’Connell, is another we should hear a lot more about further down the line.
One player who caught the eye in the Mardyke was Eddie Gunning, from Na Piarsaigh, who lined out with UCC and he was very solid in his defensive duties.
Blackrock’s Michael O’Halloran did nothing wrong, either, in the time that he got and, in the first-half against Clare, he secured some very good points.
Overall, the thinking at the conclusion of the pre-season should be that Cork is now very well served by a lot of very good young hurlers, whom we should be hearing from again in the not-too-distant future.
The work going on in the ground, development squads, etc, is beginning to reap a reward and whilst the step-up remains considerable, the players coming through should be able to do just that, if not this season, then very shortly.
There are, of course, no guarantees going forward and last season will stand for very little, when the real action begins, but as far as bringing younger players into the system is concerned, no stone is being left unturned and there has to be room for cautious optimism in the months ahead, months that will provide searching questions that need answering.
And with three teams in the last eight of the Harty Cup tomorrow afternoon, that is another plus, too.
And all three have a decent chance of further progress.
So, from the viewpoint of the pre-season, the operation has been successful and, no doubt, the management will have lots to mull over when they put together their national league 26.
The likelihood is that the squad will play a challenge game next weekend, before the preparations intensify for the trip to Nowlan Park a fortnight later.
Meyler will be anxious to get some game time for Stephen McDonnell, and Alan and Eoin Cadogan, among others, before an intense league programme begins.