The Tony Considine column: Tim O’Mahony could be crucial in a revamped Rebel defence

The Tony Considine column: Tim O’Mahony could be crucial in a revamped Rebel defence

Gary Cooney of Clare in action against Tim O'Mahony of Cork recently. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

AS the league starts this weekend, the big question I ask is 'who is really interested in winning this, or more importantly who aren't interested?'

Are teams really going to use it, this year especially, for preparation for the Championship? I'd say most teams will use it for exactly that.

I wonder what will supporters do? Judging by what I have seen in the Munster League crowds of four to five thousand turned up for some games so you can see there is a real appetite for the game.

Hurling is the best entertainment we have in Ireland, or maybe even the world, from all types of sport, and the supporters can't get enough of it. After all they are paying good money to be entertained, and on that note, I see the GAA have increased their prices again for both league and championship matches.

Are we surprised?!

To the teams in the League:

CORK: They haven't won the league in over 20 years. John Meyler and his management team will be looking at some new players, but I think the important thing for them will be the placing of their players.

Cork start against Kilkenny in Nolan Park. The Cats in their own back yard is a massive test, so where better to try out some new players... you will find out quickly what they are made of.

The challenge for Cork will be to find who will man the two central positions of their defence. I believe Cork will have to look at Tim O'Mahony at centre-back and maybe leave him there for a few games again.

He is a big strapping athletic guy and well able to hurl. I think he needs to get experience in this position. Swapping him up front like they did last summer, having been a back in the league, didn't do him much good.

For me he is a defender and could be a very good one. He is brave as well, and not shy, which is ideal for a centre-back.

Very few players can play in backs and forwards at the top level, apart from someone like Brian Corcoran, but they don't come around too often.

I also think Rob Downey should be given a go in defence as well, another big athletic player. He plays in the half-back line for his club, having been a minor forward with Cork. A very young player he needs plenty of experience and he can only get that by playing.

I also believe that Damien Cahalane should get a few games in the half-back line. Maybe Cork would get more out of him there?

I don't think he positions himself well enough in the full-back line and his reading of the game can be poor there. I believe his athleticism would be more suited to the half-backs.

In my opinion Colm Spillane would be better suited to full-back, ad he proved when moved in there last year in the Munster final. Cork should use him there for the League as he is a very good tight hurler, and a good marker.

Cork are not short on forwards, but I believe that Jamie Coughlan and Michael O'Halloran will be an addition this year.

Coughlan has been around a few years and on his day can be as good as any forward in the country. O'Halloran is a young player who impressed in the Munster League and should be given his chance.

I think Cork winning this league would do them no harm at all. After all it is a national title and it's a while since Cork won one of them.

TIPPERARY: League finalists last year and with big expectations after Liam Sheedy's return as boss. Are the expectations real?

I believe Liam will want to do well in this league. However, are Tipperary good enough? Last year they were until the league final and everything went backwards after that defeat to Kilkenny. There is a lot of mileage on the clock here.

The pressure is mounting, as it always is in Tipp.

CLARE: The Banner had a good run in the Munster League and beat Tipperary fairly easily in the final. I'm sure Donal Moloney and Jerry O'Connor would have been happy with the way a lot of the newcomers had performed, and they did play a lot of them. My belief is that they will continue with them now and maybe rest a lot of their experienced players and try and find a few for the championship.

WATERFORD: Another team with a new manager in Padraig Fanning. Waterford won this title a few years ago and now they've in Division 1B with Galway and Dublin, and expected to experiment to blood new players.

It's a nice place to build your team, as proved last year when Limerick and Galway went from 1B to contesting the All-Ireland.

DUBLIN: They've a new boss too, Mattie Kenny, a man with a good track record, at club level anyway, winning two All-Ireland titles with Cuala.

Mattie will want to hit the ground running with his team. They'll definitely be trying hard in the league.

WEXFORD: They'll also go hard in the league again I reckon. It's going back a long time since they won the league in the early 1970s and I'd say any kind of silverware would be welcome at this stage.

They have been starved of success, but it will be hard for them to win it.

KILKENNY: The Cats try to win every game!

I'm sure Brian Cody will get his team settled early, as the holders. A lot of his younger players have good experience now and being Kilkenny I'm sure they will find a few more.

GALWAY: They will be trying a lot of new players and they need to, as some of their older players have a lot of mileage on the clock. They will be there or thereabouts.

And down to the one team that are really looking forward to going back hurling, the All-Ireland champions.

LIMERICK: I'm sure players and management are sick to the teeth going around to functions, presenting medals, going on holidays, and generally being stopped by everybody on the street and in their parishes wanting to talk about the All-Ireland.

You seriously get fed up of it after a while. I would think the hard work in the winter and the rain is a lot easier at times!

It's a new year and all the slapping on the back is gone and it's down to business. As a famous manager said one time 'A slap in the back is only six inches from a kick in the arse.'

Every team should remember that!

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