GLEN Rovers have been magnificent Cork County champions over the past two years and now they begin a new campaign on the trail of three-in-a-row.
Retaining the title has proved to be hugely difficult in recent years but winning it three times on the trot would represent an achievement of huge significance.
There won’t be any talk of that in Blackpool or in the Glen Field this week but there is an acceptance that they are in the position to do it.
Team selector Des Cullinane with team boss Ritchie Kelleher and coach Ian Lynam have enjoyed the last few years but there is an acknowledgement too that nothing comes easy in this championship.
Cullinane told the Echo that they are looking forward to a new battle and doing as well as they can again this season.
“That’s the way it is, every game in the championship in Cork is a battle and if you don’t have that battling mentality you won’t win games.
“When the draw was made we found ourselves up against Bride Rovers and that’s as hard a game as you can get.
“There is obvious history between us and you never get anything easy against them. We never make it easy for them either and that game will be a big ask.’’
Cullinane does not put too much store into talk of the three-in-a-row but he’s aware it will come up in various conversations inside and outside the club.
“It is what it is. We are the only team with a chance right now of doing it and we are conscious of that. Look, we are an ageing team in some respects. The players we have are very greedy, they are putting in the effort and they want to win as much as they can before they retire.
“They have a great attitude, we have lost two great servants this season, Shane Kennefick and Brian Phelan but we still have the spine of the team that’s been there since 2010. We have had two great years but, at the same time, apart from maybe Carbery last season, we haven’t beaten anybody by that much.
“Every game in Cork is a huge challenge but that’s a challenge that we embrace. Go back to 2014 when we were heavily beaten by Sars, who would have thought that we’d recover to win the next two titles. It’s all down to the players and their work and their attitude.’’
The Glen selector believes that it will be even more difficult this time to go out and win the championship again.
“It will be, I believe that there are six or seven teams out there capable of winning it.
“You’d have Erin's Own, Sars, Midleton, Douglas, just for starters. The Barrs, Blackrock are coming too, we cannot look beyond Bride Rovers and Na Piarsaigh, if they got a run going, would be up there.
“Then you have the divisions and the colleges, you just don’t know with them. It is a very hard championship to win and that will remain the case, I believe.’’
On the standard of club hurling in Cork, often criticised, Cullinane believes that some of that criticism is unjust.
“We got to a Munster club final last year, we were disappointed that we didn’t do better and I believe that we did not do ourselves justice on the day.
”We might never get that chance again but I believe that Cork hurling is not that far off. I look at club teams from Cork playing challenge games outside the county, Erin's Own, Midleton, to mention just two and they do well in them.
“People talk about the failure of city clubs to have had the impact they used to have. Maybe it’s psychological to some extent. Anytime we play another city team it’s never easy. We developed ourselves a battle hardness which brought us over the line in the past few years.
“Maybe the other clubs need to have that same type of battling qualities. I believe the city clubs, all of them are as good as any around.
“As I said earlier, when we lost so badly to Sars in 2014, we were written off, finished but look what happened, we re-grouped and won the next two championships.
“I’ll tell you if we play any city club this season we’d be very wary and we’d know we’d get nothing easy.’’
For now, though, it’s their old rivals from Rathcormac coming out of the opposition corner again.
“I am not trying to plamas Bride Rovers. They are a very good hurling team, renowned to really put it up to you and they have those battling qualities.
“We know that it won’t be easy for us. We have another player now, Dean Brosnan on the Cork panel and you are without those lads in a lot of games.
“Our league form is up and down, hot and cold. We are trying out a few younger lads. Recently we lost to Ballymartle and they were very excited at being able to beat us because we are the county champions.
“When you are the champions you are up there to be knocked and every team is gunning for you. If we lost to Bride Rovers we’d be out against Carbery and that would be a different route to try and get back into it.
“The best way is to win your first round and take it on from there."