WITH the emergence of Tim O’Mahony and Darren Browne, competition for starting places in the Cork half-back line is intensifying but the number seven jersey continues to be filled with distinction by Christopher Joyce.
The Na Piarsaigh player is now a key and consistent defender on this Cork team and is likely to remain so well into the foreseeable future.
He’s well used to facing up to difficult challenges, now almost on a weekly basis and he views the all-important league encounter with Waterford next Sunday as another one.
“We are trying to put in a performance every week and we are not focusing on the results at the moment, we are just trying to get the performances right.
“Coming in now to the match with Waterford this weekend, this is what we are really focusing on, a good performance.’’
Cork’s most recent encounter with Clare last Sunday was a very mixed bag, very poor in the opening half before reinventing themselves thereafter, what was taken from that 70 minutes?
“Look, Clare are taking the league very seriously at this time of the year, they were in good form, in good nick last Sunday and we went up last Sunday missing a couple of players.
“A couple of more got game-time that they were not getting last year so I suppose it’s helping to build the squad going forward, these fellows are getting a lot more game time this year than in previous years.
“You have to get the balance right too but at the end of the day we have got a lot of guys blooded this year which is good for the squad as a whole going forward.’’
The games are coming thick and fast now and there’s little space from week to week for reflection.
“Ya, we were back training on Tuesday night after the Clare game. We have a quick look over on what we could have done better and we move on and this weekend’s performance will be assessed again afterwards.
“It’s a quick turnaround and that is what it’s going to be like in the championship, you are not going to have time for too much video analysis.
“Tuesday nights are very important to get back down to the ground and get going again.
“It’s different to any other year. In the league before you probably two weekends off and in the championship you could have three, four weeks break.
“This time of the year you need to be working hard. Tuesday nights are very important and you have to put in a good bit of work.
“At this time it’s just about getting match fitness. Every game you play is benefiting you further down the year so it’s important to get the hard work done now."
Last Sunday Joyce had two newcomers alongside him in the half-back line, Tim O’Mahony and Darren Browne and he believes that they are very good prospects.
“They are very good and they are bringing real competition for places on the team now. You have Tim, Sean O’Donoghue and Darren, they are getting game time, Jack O’Connor too in the forwards.
“Again, at the end of the day, you can’t just throw a guy into the championship so you have to give them league time and that’s only going to benefit them and the squad going forward.
“It’s going to be very hard now with the championship schedule the way it is to play the same 15 guys every Sunday.
“They are going to be very high-intensity games and you will have to come down quickly after them, four weeks in five you will be playing and when it starts some of these guys will be playing.
“These fellows are really trying to impress in their first year and they are doing really well.
“The full-back line is doing really well, Darren came in last Sunday and did well and Tim has fitted in brilliantly in fairness.
“It’s getting used to it, we need to gel and get our performance right, knowing what guys are doing and getting used to it."
The Na Piarsaigh star is very aware how tight things are going to be over the coming months, particularly the new championship format.
“It’s going to be super competitive, Limerick are really improving, Clare the same, Tipp, Waterford, there won’t be one easy game.
“You need to get off to a good start, that will be vital. You need that first win. As I said, I don’t think the same 15 will make it through this Munster championship, guys will get injured, pick up knocks so you have to have a competitive panel.
“We are trying to build that competition in matches, in training. Guys that are doing well in the league are being put in for matches.
“In previous years there might have been a fear of giving guys game time. You’d want to give the same 15 as much time as possible, time to gel but it has to be different this year."
Joycey, as he is known to his teammates, has had injury issues in the past, suffering a cruciate ligament damage in 2015 but that’s all in the past now and he’s raring to go for the big games that lie ahead.
“Yes, no injury concerns now, feeling good and getting as fit as I can be for what we hope will be a long summer."