CORK captain Ian Maguire believes the condensed national football league represents a great chance for the county to return to the top table.
Instead of the usual seven games, Cork have just three, against Clare, Kildare and Laois in Division 2 South, with dates, times and venues to be determined.
“Seven games in an eight- or nine-week window is a very long campaign and I considered it a marathon,” he said during the week. Personally, I think it’s a great opportunity for Cork because we have three games and we’ll treat them like championship games.
“If you can get good quality wins in Division 2 that will only spring you forward in our aim to get out of the division.
“The windows for preparation are going to be smaller because I expect we will have three games on the trot.
“It’s good preparation for championship, though, and it’s exciting from a players’ point of view,” he added.
In a wide-ranging zoom chat, lasting almost half-an-hour, the Allstar nominee midfielder paid tribute to one player who won’t be involved.
Fermoy’s Tomás Clancy joined Paul Kerrigan in hanging up his inter-county boots and Maguire was lavish in his praise.
“I played with him since 2013 and that year we won a Sigerson with UCC and Tomás was one of our top two or three players. And that team included the likes of Michael Quinlivan and Paul Geaney. That’s how highly I regarded him.
“It’s sad to see him go because Cork have lost a good player and a stalwart in a lot of ways.
“Tomás was a friend and a great leader, who always performed for Cork whenever he was asked no matter whether it was sweeper, half-back, half-forward or corner-back.
“It was heartbreaking, though, that he wasn’t there for the win over Kerry because of all the commitment he has given.
“The standard he set in that dressing room will be there for years to come and some of the younger fellows will have learned a lot from him.”
Clancy’s versatility was one of many outstanding characteristics and his importance to Cork was best summed up by Maguire.
In 2019, Tomás marked Sean O’Shea in a Munster final and while he was dropped for the Laois game, he was recalled to mark Ciaran Kilkenny against Dublin and Peter Harte against Tyrone.
"I learned a lot both from Tomás and Paul and I can’t thank them enough.”
Maguire admits he’s not a happy bunny after losing games, especially the big ones, like the Munster final loss to Tipperary last season.
“It took me two weeks to actually watch the video back because you feel like you’ve have fallen off a cliff after losing in championship. We underperformed on the day and the better team won.
Tipp played with more intensity, did the damage at certain stages and deserved to win.
“It was different this time because in other years you went back to your club, but this time we had nothing.
“I feel as if I’ve not had the opportunity to right the wrongs of the performance and from a players’ perspective it is very tough.
“I feel I have a lingering regret over the game and I’ve not had the opportunity to focus on something else like training, McGrath Cup or a league game.
“There’s no point getting away from it this was another bad loss, a missed opportunity.”
Tipp’s All-Ireland semi-final with Mayo came too soon for Maguire to be able to put his feet up and watch the match unfold from the couch.
The three-point loss was still too raw for the captain.
“I didn’t watch the game live because I wanted to give myself a bit of time. I did watch it back eventually, but I also try to stay clear of hypothetical situations.
“I watched it back not for what Tipp did or didn’t do, but to learn different things like kick-outs and what Mayo did that we didn’t.
“You can use regret it if you want to and I do have regrets about our performance, but I try to learn as a player rather than as a team.”