CORK legend Joe Deane is expecting the new wave of Rebel hurlers to give the county a lift this summer, even if they are lacking big-game experience ahead of Sunday's Munster opener against Tipp in Thurles, 4pm.
Deane, who last pulled on the Blood and Bandage in 2008, previewed the season in a GAA blog on the AIB website. The Killeagh native was part of highly-successful underage teams, winning a Harty Cup with Midelton CBS and minor and U21 All-Irelands before graduating to senior silverware in 1999. That’s a luxury this generation don’t have.
“Cork have some excellent young players coming through like Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman and Luke Meade and a lot of them are only 19 or 20,” writes Deane. “We’ve needed to find a bit of depth to the squad, something to bolster the class we have with Seamus Harnedy, Conor Lehane and Patrick Horgan who have been very good in the past five years. Hopefully guys of the same quality start to come through to the squad year on year."
“The thing is, it takes time. A lot of our younger players haven’t won underage what the likes of Austin Gleeson and Co have with Waterford which has given them phenomenal experience and confidence of playing on the big stage on a regular basis.”
The 39-year-old argues in the online column that Cork GAA hasn’t been helped by the lack of investment in training facilities.
“The Cork County Board splashed a huge amount of cash on the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh — which will be fantastic — but I think some of the funds should have been diverted elsewhere. I was talking to Gooch at an AIB GAA function and he was telling me about the €8m Centre of Excellence they have in Kerry and the amount of pitches they have as part of that.
“The Pairc will have just two pitches, which is a shame because so many underage teams have to go all over the county to train. I’d like to have seen some of the stadium money used on pitches to develop players.” As for this Sunday, the iconic attacker conceded it will take a colossal effort to upset the odds.
“This Tipp team have a proven ability. Ronan and Padraic Maher set the tempo at the back and deliver great ball in for Callanan, the McGraths and the likes. We need to cut off supply and work very hard, and we may have to set up defensively too.
“I know last year we went with the sweeper and it didn’t really work out. We have to hope Tipp don’t fire on all cylinders and we produce a performance that I know is in us.”