DAMIEN Cahalane is hoping the Cork supporters can make the new-look Páirc Uí Chaoimh a Rebel fortress in the new round-robin Munster championship.
Cork host Clare this Sunday at 4pm and Limerick on June Bank Holiday Saturday, while they head to Thurles to face Tipp and Waterford, in a bid to defend their provincial crown.
“In a way, it’s like the league where you try to make home advantage count," said Cahalane. "These games are so important, you saw that in the league, the teams with home advantage were coming out with a good performance or a result.
“We’ll be looking to get the most out of each other and individually as well in every game but those two home games will be huge, I think that goes without saying."
John Meyler's charges beat Kilkenny in the opening round of the league but were defeated by Waterford, only to get the better of the Déise in the relegation play-off, though that was in Páirc Uí Rinn as opposed to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Championship hurling is different of course, and Cahalane can't wait for the visit of the Banner.
“You get paid to do your job, fellas go to college, things you have to do. But hurling, it has to be enjoyable at the end of the day.
“This is the time you have and there has to be an enjoyment factor in it and there’s nothing better than playing championship for Cork and getting that buzz of pulling on that jersey and the pride that goes with it.
“That brings great enjoyment to everybody on this Cork panel and that makes the sacrifices worthwhile."
Bar a brief appearance against Wexford, Cahalane was marked absent during the league but he is set to return to action this weekend, with rookie centre-back Tim O'Mahony out due to an elbow injury.
There are a number of positions up for grabs in the Rebel rearguard, with the team set to be announced tonight. Colm Spillane and newcomer Seán O'Donoghue will be in the corners, with Mark Coleman number seven, while Chris Joyce could be deployed at the edge of the square or in his usual half-back berth. That leaves Cahalane, Mark Ellis and Eoin Cadogan, who shone over the spring on his hurling comeback, for two positions.
Barrs warrior Cahalane is just relieved to training at full tilt again.
“The health is good, has been for the last couple of weeks now and it’s just all about getting back into the swing of things again," said the All-Star nominated full-back.
“Even for the head to get back into training, it’s good. I missed almost the entire league, bar 10 minutes against Wexford. That was frustrating."
Cahalane admits the Munster champions, like the rest of the sides, are facing into the unknown with four major games to make it to the provincial decider.
“Initially, it’s four games in Munster, hopefully, it will be five and we get to the Munster final. It’s going to be a test for everybody and it’s going to be intense.
“But we are looking forward to it, it’s definitely going into the unknown to some extent. It will be a challenge playing from one week to the next, nobody has experienced that sort of schedule in the past but we’ll be going all out to see how well we can do and putting back to back performances together."