CORK senior hurling star Conor Lehane is eagerly looking forward to the start of this year’s Munster hurling championship campaign which has a new format this year.
The reigning Munster champions are scheduled to play Clare, Tipperary, Limerick and Waterford in a round robin format, with the top two teams reaching the Munster final, while the third team will face a qualifier to reach the All-Ireland series.
“Our full attention in recent weeks was with our clubs. It will however be full steam ahead with Cork in the next few weeks.
"We are all really looking forward to the new format,” declared the talented centre forward.
Conor who played a key role in Midleton’s seven point win against Bishopstown following their senior first round clash is fully fit ahead of this year’s senior inter-county campaign.
“I am raring to go. I am completely fit, no niggles at all. I suffered with a few minor injuries last season, but touch wood this season, I have no issues.
"I am looking forward to a great season.”
Conor was delighted to help the Magpies defeat Bishopstown.
The ace forward along with the rest of the Cork senior team thrive on playing regular games.
“They are ideal in the run up to championship season. There is always a great intensity to championship games.
"You can’t beat playing competitive championship games.”
The Cork senior hurlers will be led into championship action by experienced coach John Meyler who managed the Cork U21 team last season. Conor is enjoying working with the new Rebel manager who succeeded Kieran Kingston.
“We are very familiar with John and his methods. He was involved with us last year. He is a very experienced and good coach.
"The new coaches he has brought in with him have all gelled very well. They are all great to work with. Hopefully we will enjoy a very successful season.
"John and his selectors have not made many changes so far, as there was no real need to make wholesale changes.
"He has made a few tweaks, but nothing too dramatic.”
Conor enjoyed working under the guidance of former manager Kieran Kingston who guided the Rebels to Munster championship success.
“Kieran was a great manager. We were devastated to see him go.
"I got on great with Kieran, I have fierce time for him. He had a hard decision to make, which he didn’t make lightly.
"He did great as the Cork manager and he left a lasting legacy which we will always be grateful for.”
Cork enjoyed somewhat of an indifferent league campaign this season, mixing the very good with the average over a number of games. They had to secure a win against Waterford in a relegation play-off tie to preserve their top flight status.
Conor was keen to focus on the positives which emerged from the league campaign.
“We had a good start and a good finish, while we struggled during the middle part. We never got hammered in any games, we were always very close to teams.
"We have to improve however when games are close and in the melting pot to grind out a win.
"The league is great preparatory work ahead of the championship which brings a different kind of intensity.
"We will be ready come championship time.”
Cork enjoyed a superb championship campaign last season. They unleashed a number of exciting hurling talents who took the championship by storm. Conor is confident their young players will enjoy another similar successful season.
“They will learn a great deal from last season. They were a breath of fresh air. They brought great confidence and enthusiasm.
"They will relish the opportunity to prove their class once again this season. People will be expecting big performances from them.
"They will be under more pressure, but I am confident they will play big roles in our season once again.”
Cork ultimately succumbed to a defeat against Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final last season.
Conor is confident there will be no hang-ups from that defeat when the championship campaign beings in earnest.
“It was a disappointing defeat. This is a new season however, we will not dwell on that defeat at all.
"Our full focus is on this year and the start of the Munster championship.”
Cork hurling received a major boost last season with the success of their various underage teams who enjoyed very successful seasons.
Conor is thrilled to see a plethora of talented players coming through.
“It is very important we keep producing great talent.
"The minor team brought a great buzz last season.
"It was great to play our games after them.
"Hopefully all these players can keep developing and progressing.”
Cork’s first game against Clare will be played in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday week.
Conor can’t wait for the championship season to begin. It will be great to play our first game at home.
"It will be a super occasion. The atmosphere will be great. Clare are a very strong team. It will be a very physical encounter.
"The new format is good. It will ensure regular games over a short period.
"Games are always better than training sessions. It will be vital to get the championship season off to a great start.”
Conor Lehane was speaking at Bandon GAA Grounds to launch the GAA Super Games Centre in partnership with Sky Sports.