IRRESPECTIVE of the status of the competition, every game is important and from a Cork perspective all the more so when the main objective is to give your squad a greater depth.
Squad depth has become massively important now, given the more demanding schedule and in a much shorter time frame. Cork hurlers have four games played between the Munster League and the National League and have lost all four.
Of course, go back to last season and in both competitions Cork played nine games and won just two, defeating Kilkenny in Cork and Waterford in a league relegation play-off.
Fast forward to July 1 in Semple Stadium and Cork were Munster champions again.
There’s no guarantee of that happening all the time and Cork will certainly want to get a few wins under their belt in the three games that are remaining in Division 1A.
Two of those are at home, we can’t say for definite in Páirc Uí Chaoimh because of the ongoing issue with the state of the pitch.
If things haven’t improved by the time Clare come to town next Saturday week it might make far more sense to take that game to Páirc Uí Rinn. That’s a wait and see situation but a win against the Banner County has to be targeted now.
There’s no relegation to be dealing with this season which lessens matters considerably and the main objective for John Meyler is to bring in more players that will provide greater options when the championship gets underway in May.
The management team is hampered at present by the unavailability of key players for different reasons and the absence from the Cork attack thus far of Seamus Harnedy and Alan Cadogan is a substantial minus.
They are without Darragh Fitzgibbon too and any county would feel his loss deeply.
Eoin Cadogan and Colm Spillane are notable absentees too because, in all probability, the championship starting 15 won’t differ a whole pile since last season.
That’s not saying that there aren’t places available on that 15, of course there are and it’s a similar story in every other county.
However, it’s up to others to put up their hands and put pressure on the guys who have the jersey.
Meyler has been at pains to stress the importance of deepening his squad and over the weekend we saw the importance of that with Limerick again. In their fine win over Tipperary on Saturday night you had newcomer Conor Boylan, son of former Midleton player David, making a very impressive debut at wing-forward.
You had Peter Casey coming in from the bench, Paddy O’Loughlin, Kyle Hayes, Cian Lynch and Pat Ryan too.
Last season’s super-sub Shane Dowling didn’t feature at all and yet Limerick looked very impressive once they settled into the contest. At this point in time, they certainly appear to have the strongest of the squads and the greater options when the need arises.
And that was their strength too in their march to the All-Ireland title last August.
Meyler and his selectors are trying to emulate that and they are throwing open their door to a lot of players.
Thus far we have seen Cormac Murphy put up his hand with a splendid display against Kilkenny at Nowlan Park and last Sunday Aidan Walsh came to the forefront with four very well-taken points.
He has no great amount of hurling done at this level for some time now but he may well be a considerable option when the bigger questions are posed. Declan Dalton did nothing wrong in Nowlan Park and, while his introduction against Wexford was late in the game, he immediately got stuck in.
The Fitzgibbon Cup is an issue with some players at the moment with their availability because at this time in the season you must monitor their amount of game time carefully.
Cork have been disappointing in their two national league games to date and Meyler will want more going forward and he’ll want the confidence levels of certain players to increase too.
Matters were not helped last Sunday by the chronic state of the pitch at headquarters and that was something that selector O’Mahony alluded to afterwards.
This has been an issue for too long now and needs addressing. That’s maybe easier said than done and the only decisive action may be to replace the existing surface altogether.
One does not know what would be involved in all of that and May 12 against Tipperary won’t be too long in coming down the track.
The attendance too at Pairc Ui Chaoimh last Sunday was disappointing, just 6,827 for a double-header. Is the price increase to €20 (€15 for advance purchases) a factor? But you had far bigger attendances at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday night and in Cusack Park on Sunday.
Maybe people are saying to themselves that the league is of no great relevance this season because of the no relegation factor.
The result that really caught the eye on Sunday was Carlow’s draw with Galway, a depleted Galway it must be said but one that still contained Padraig and Cathal Mannion, Davey Glennon and Joe Canning.
Carlow won’t be in contention for honours this season or any season soon but that should not detract from the work that is being put in throughout the small pockets of the county where the game is played.
They don’t have great numbers playing the game there but Colm Bonnar is doing great work with the players at his disposal. Maybe Offaly, as Anthony Daly stated last Monday in the Irish Examiner, could have a look at what’s going on there.
In the Faithful County at present, the picture is very bleak.
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