CORK hurling boss John Meyler is expecting a tough, opening engagement with Kilkenny at Nowlan Park next Sunday as the national league swings into action.
It’s a repeat of their opening game last season at Páirc Uí Chaoimh which was won by Cork on a scoreline of 1-24 to 0-24.
Both sides will be minus key players but are still expected to field strong units.
“It’s a good opening game for us, always a very competitive game when you are playing Kilkenny. We met them too in the opening game last year and you will never get anything easy when you play a Kilkenny team.
“They played Wexford recently in Enniscorthy in the Walsh Cup and, whilst they were missing a lot of players and lost, they were still very competitive.”
Meyler revealed that the Cork players involved with UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup will not be involved in this game but that situation will be reviewed after Sunday.
A number of players are on the injured list as well, with Mark Ellis and Mikey Cahalane ruled out while Eoin Cadogan is unlikely to feature either.
On the plus side, however, is the return of a number of players who were involved before but not last season.
“We have players who were involved before, Stephen McDonnell, Cormac Murphy, Aidan Walsh back in the squad again as is Jamie Coughlan who was there last season but did not feature all that much.
“We have brought in younger players like Deccie Dalton and Robert Downey, although Downey is unlikely to feature on Sunday because of an injury as well.”
The Cork boss does not go along with the idea that the league could be diminished in status because of the fact that there is no relegation this season.
“No, I don’t go along with that. There’s a fierce appetite there for hurling at the moment. You saw that in the Munster League recently, crowds of three, four and five thousand at games.
“There won’t be any shadow boxing, I believe, and all the teams will be competitive and will want to deliver.”
His own hopes for the secondary competition are straightforward.
“We will try to be competitive in all our games, we will be trying to win them and we will try to introduce a few new players into the equation. They are the three objectives and that’s it really.”
Cork have three home fixtures in the coming weeks and just one more away.
They play Wexford and Clare in Cork followed by a trip to the Gaelic Grounds before concluding the group programme against Tipperary in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.