THE Cork hurlers will conclude their pre-season preparations at the weekend with a challenge game against the All-Ireland champions Galway before they face Kilkenny in the opening game of the National League the following weekend at Páirc Uí Chaiomh.
Team boss John Meyler is likely to field a much stronger team than he did in the three Munster League games and the strongest team that has been fielded to date was in another challenge against Dublin.
The Cork squad spent last weekend in Carton House and Meyler told the Evening Echo that it had been a very successful exercise.
“Yes, I was delighted with the work and the work ethic of the players. We were meant to play Dublin in another challenge but they had Walsh Cup commitments so we played a useful game amongst ourselves."
Cork will be without at least two of last season’s championship team when they face Kilkenny in the league opener with Stephen McDonnell having opted out of the season’s plans and his Glen Rovers clubmate, Patrick Horgan suspended as a result of being sent off in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final.
Cork face a hectic and difficult league programme with three of their five games in Division 1A away from home.
Following the game with Kilkenny, they play Clare the following weekend in Ennis and they have another away game a fortnight later against Wexford.
Then comes a home game with Waterford before they conclude the group stage with a trip to Thurles to face Tipperary.
Cork will be putting a lot more emphasis on the squad this season because of the heavy schedule in both the league and the new look Munster Championship which is a league in itself with four games initially.
“A squad is going to be very important now in the National League and in the Munster championship and it’s critical that we find new talent," Meyler told the Echo in the aftermath of the loss to Kerry last Sunday.
Meanwhile, a number of the Cork squad were in action with UCC and Cork IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup last night.