Cork hurling squad needed a reboot even if it's tough on players let go

Lehane, Nash, Walsh and Joyce had some great moments for the Rebels
Cork hurling squad needed a reboot even if it's tough on players let go

Cork’s Conor Lehane breaks away from Wexford’s Lee Chin in a Man of the Match display in the 2015 qualifiers. Lehane, along with Aidan Walsh, Anthony Nash and Christopher Joyce, won’t be on the senior panel in 2021. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

IN any team sport there will always be comings and goings, players being brought in to try and strengthen things up and players who have suffered a loss of form or not making the desired impact on the training pitch being let go.

So, it’s inevitable in the aftermath of a disappointing campaign that some players will make way for others.

Cork hurlers did not have a good season, just one victory from three championship outings and a failure to reach the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland.

Therefore, it came as no great surprise that some players were not going to be part of the squad going forward into next season.

A management team always strives to freshen things up from one season to the next, sometimes maybe even within a campaign.

No doubt, when Kieran Kingston and the rest of his backroom team sat down to analyse the season that concluded in Croke Park last Sunday they were faced with some difficult decisions.

And it was no great surprise when it was announced that some prominent names and it must be said some very good servants had left the squad.

Anthony Nash was the first to announce that his superb tenure in a Cork jersey was over and that was followed by the revelation that Christopher Joyce, Aidan Walsh, Conor Lehane and Chris O’Leary were leaving too.

A number of new faces were coming in to replace them, among them the Rockies contingent of Niall Cashman, Dan Meaney, Tadhg Deasy and Alan Connolly.

Young Shane Barrett, who got a few minutes in the All-Ireland qualifier against the Dubs, comes in too as does Ger Millerick from Fr O’Neill’s, who featured in the past before he was struck down with injury.

Firstly, to those who are making their exit. Nash was an outstanding custodian, one of the best in his trade over the past eight or nine years.

This guy owes Cork hurling nothing and it could be safely stated that he never cost Cork a game.

He leaves a rich legacy behind him as did his predecessors, the likes of Donal Óg Cusack, Ger Cunningham, Martin Coleman and so on.

Aidan Walsh has been a fine servant too in both codes but even at a relatively young age he had a lot of miles on the clock.

Aidan Walsh. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Aidan Walsh. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Chris Joyce valiantly tried to rediscover the form that he exhibited before a cruciate ligament injury sidelined him and doing that has proved a bridge too far for a lot of players. Again, he was a fine Cork hurler for quite some time.

One of the most mystifying things in the last couple of years has been the dip in form of Conor Lehane, surely on his best days one of the country’s top forwards for club and county.

He has not performed at the very high level that he was at, the standard he set but it is still a bit of a surprise to see him go. One does believe that maybe there was still a decent amount left to make him a valuable asset again going forward.

Inter-county players are now calling time on their careers much earlier given the extraordinary demands placed on them but Lehane is not in that bracket yet and it is disappointing to see him go. Some might say that his best position on the Cork team was never really found because there is no doubt that he was a forward of the highest quality.

The introduction to the squad for the new season of the Blackrock contingent is welcome, all four of them earned their stripes in the re-emergence of the club as a powerful force in Cork hurling.

Niall Cashman was outstanding at centre-back, made forays up the field to secure some great points and if anybody has the pedigree to become a Cork hurler of note, he has.

A lot of Tadhg Deasy’s contribution was made off the bench and what a contribution it was when he got the call.

Along with other Rockies subs, he made a significant impact, he posted some big scores and brought a fresh impetus in with him that benefited those around him.

Daniel Meaney was a kind of unsung hero around the middle of the field, always putting in a good shift, often unseen and every team needs that type of player.

Young Alan Connolly was a revelation up front and deserves his chance too.

Alan Connolly in Cork U20 action. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Alan Connolly in Cork U20 action. Picture: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Nobody is expecting overnight miracles from some of these guys and it will take time and they must get time to settle in.

The return of Ger Millerick is welcome too, for both club and county. A quality defender who made man marking his priority, there is a place in the full-back line for him.

It really is a case of wait and see how things work out for those players but it became glaringly obvious that changes were necessary.

But it may take time for things to bed in and let’s be honest, Cork are well down the pecking order right now in terms of being major honours contenders.

But they are not a million miles off either, look at Waterford 12 months ago, rank outsiders in the grand scheme of things.

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