SIMILAR to every other inter-county manager, it’s a wait-and-see situation for Cork hurling boss Kieran Kingston.
Now in his second season of a three-year arrangement, Kingston waits for clarity of what lies ahead for the next few months.
One thing he does know is that this time the games at inter-county level will be first up, a reversal of 2020 when the club games were the first to be played.
“Like everybody else, we are waiting for some clarity on the whole thing, when we can resume collective training and when the games will be given the green light to commence,” he told The Echo.
“It’s out of our control and we have to adhere to whatever is set out by Croke Park who are guided by the government and the health authorities.
“It’s frustrating, but what can you do, there are far more important things going on in people’s lives, but hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later.”
With a total ban on collective training and severe consequences for anyone not adhering to that, Kingston explained that the Cork squad are doing their own thing on an individual basis just as it was in the first lockdown.
“Yes, that’s very much the case, the players have their own training programmes designed by Cork’s high-performance manager, Aidan O’Connell, and strength and conditioning coach Mark Brady.
“The players cannot go to a GAA field and everything is done on an individual basis. We communicate with them as required and through Zoom and that’s all you can do really for the moment.
“The players, in general, look after themselves and are fit, young men, but it’s not the ideal preparation. However, it’s the same story across the board.”
Like all other counties, from year to year, players come into the squad and others leave for different reasons.
Cork are no different in recent times, a couple of players called time on their inter-county careers and others were omitted by the management from the squad.
“That’s right. Some great Cork servants are no longer in the squad, some called time on their careers and others we omitted.
All I will say is that each and every one of them gave Cork great service for a long time and for those we omitted, the squad remains fluid and the door remains open for a return.
“Things can change, injuries, a player can regain his form, the door is open.”
There are now 48 players on the extended squad, if you include those in the development structure similar to one that was successful used in 2016.
“We have added some new faces to replace those who have left, the Blackrock lads Alan Connolly, Daniel Meaney, Niall Cashman, and Tadhg Deasy, Simon Kennefick from the Glen, Daire O’Leary from Watergrasshill, Sean Twomey from Courcey Rovers, James O’Flynn from Erin’s Own, and Shane Barrett from Blarney.
“We have also put in place a development panel and there are 13 players on that and this has been very beneficial in the past.
“From the development panel in 2016, you had lads like Darragh Fitzgibbon, Deccie Dalton, Luke Meade, Mark Coleman, Robbie O’Flynn, Sean O’Donoghue, Shane Kingston, and Tim O’Mahony coming through.
“That was a great return and, hopefully, the current lads on the panel will come through in a similar fashion. So, overall, we have our own squad of 35 and a development panel of 13.”
Former All-Ireland winning boss, Donal O’Grady and Cathal Sheridan, high-performance sports psychologist, have joined the backroom team also, and Kingston sees that as a very positive step.
“Yes, we are delighted to have acquired the services of both Donal and Cathal, they bring a wealth of experience and we are looking forward to teaming up with them when collective training can resume.”
With no pre-season Munster League this time, it will be all hands on deck for the National Hurling League whenever that starts.
“It will have to be, 100%. That’s the only preparation that we will have before the start of the championship. We don’t know what format the league will be but whatever it is, we will be putting full emphasis on it, there’s no other way.”
And then the championship.
“Look, it will be no different to last year or any recent years. It will probably be even more competitive.
“We know what Limerick did last season. Munster has the All-Ireland champions for the past three years in Limerick and Tipp, Waterford were in the final last season and Clare will be stronger too.
“Munster remains a minefield so we must be ready and raring to go when the time comes and we are eagerly awaiting the draw.”
Last year’s disruption and the current uncertainty hasn’t helped the Cork boss in his second term at the helm.
“No, but that’s the way it is. These are the challenges that are presented and you must play the cards you are dealt.
“You have to look at what’s going on around you and recognise it’s a huge challenge for everybody, not just us in the hurling world.
Last season was very challenging and frustrating in many ways.
"The league was so disruptive as we had 21 players involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup so the access to the full panel was very limited.
“We had a very good club championship, but on the other hand we had a limited time preparing for the Waterford game and I think that showed on the day.”