FIFTEEN and a half months after their thrilling All-Ireland triumph Cork get the opportunity to defend their title in the heart of the Kingdom.
It’s a collision of the provincial and national champions in a game that was originally scheduled for March and then last month only for Covid to intervene.
And while playing a championship match 10 days before Christmas is hardly ideal at least it’s better than not figuring at all as Cork manager Bobbie O’Dwyer stressed.
“I’m absolutely delighted for the young lads because they only get one chance to represent their county and for other reasons, too.
“Firstly, they put in such a huge effort themselves and now get a chance to play and it’s for their families, also.
“To become a senior inter-county footballer or hurler for that matter is a long journey and it takes many years.
“Playing with your county at minor level is part of that journey,” he said.
Cork are captained by Eoghan Nash from Douglas who is the only survivor though there are two or three who were in the extended panel.
“The make-up of the squad is similar to last year in that we picked from a lot of clubs, either 25 or 26 in total in the panel.
“They’re from all over the county and the city and as far as we are concerned wherever the best player comes from we’ll have him involved with Cork.
“We had a whole series of trials and watched players in schools matches and things like that.
“Obviously with the lockdown in March the squad didn’t continue, but we brought in a couple of lads, when the minor club championships started.
“They hadn’t come through the trials, but had been going very well with their clubs.
“We have the best group that we can see around Cork and we’re really looking forward to the game.”
The year’s upheaval makes this an impossible game to predict with no form to judge.
“There’ve been no matches so we haven’t been able to measure ourselves against other counties and likewise we haven’t been able to assess how our opponents are going and getting our match-ups.
“It’s the same for every county and all you can do is have your internal games and training sessions, all in two weeks to get back.
“We could very little in real terms though the lads were working away on their own and it’s the one area where you’d be a small bit concerned.
“It’s how you get a group of young lads from a general level of fitness to a level for inter-county sport, the twisting, turning, pace and the hits that come in.
“You’d just hope everyone will be okay and it’s the same for every county.
“Preparations wouldn’t have been as we would have liked, but they are what they are and we just put the head down and get on with it.”
Again there’ll be no crowds though a family representative can attend.
“The plan is for players to travel down independently with family members.
“Dressingrooms remain out of bounds and we’ve just got to get creative in how we plan our time in terms of travel and food.
“Given a county the size of Cork, we have fellows travelling from all over, north, west, east and it’s a good journey, so there’s a bit of work on the logistics side of it.”
C Dungan (Carrigaline); F Walsh (Argideen Rangers), L McCarthy (Castlehaven), D Murray (Glanmire), R O’Sullivan (Newcestown), T Walsh (Kanturk), S Brady (Ballygarvan); E Nash ( Douglas), captain, S Kingston (Ballinora); F Finner (Castletownbere), C Walsh (Kanturk), L O’Connell (Ballincollig); H O’Connor (Newmarket), C Hanlon (Buttevant), S Walsh (Argideen Rangers).
D Byrne (Aghada), R Barrow (Ballinora), S O’Callaghan (Liscarroll/Churchtown Gaels), J O’Driscoll ( Valley Rovers), S Dore (Ballincollig), T Cronin (St Colum’s), D Kelly (Naomh Aban), C McCarthy (Valley Rovers), A Sheehy (Douglas).