John Horgan: Cork hurlers must balance need for wins with tight schedule

Kieran Kingston's side will look to build momentum but can't afford any injury issues
John Horgan: Cork hurlers must balance need for wins with tight schedule

Players from both sides tussle when Waterford beat Cork in the opening round of the league in 2020 at Walsh Park. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

DIVISION 1A of the NHL could well be described as a Munster championship without Clare who are competing in 1B of the competition.

With Cork, Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick all in one division of the secondary competition, you have four of the five counties who will be going into battle shortly after the conclusion of league.

This, obviously, makes things a bit more interesting and it also is interesting to see how the four managers approach things.

With the league, there is always the thinking that a lot of shadow boxing can take place, team bosses not prepared to show their full hand until the far more important championship encounter not that long afterwards.

The respective managers will all be singing from the same hymn sheet, they do all the time.

Their message is always the same, we will be trying to win every game that we play but everything is geared towards the championship.

No county sets out to lose any game but some prioritise things more than others which begs the questions, what would constitute a good league?.

This season’s competition, which begins in just short of three weeks time, is different in so far as there are no quarter-finals, semis or final scheduled unless the winners of the two divisions clash afterwards in the championship which will double up as the league final.

It’s going to be very rapid too, five games in six weeks, a two-week break before the championship swings into action.

A county manager might not go all out to try and win the league but, nonetheless, he will view it as important that his team does reasonably well.

He will require his players having some sort of momentum going into the provincial championship and he certainly will require having a few wins under the belt.

You certainly don’t want to be going deeper into the summer after losing all your five league games.

The theory, success breeds success, comes into play too and that was very evident last season when Limerick entered the championship on the back of being unbeaten in the league, winning all their games.

As things turned out, they met Tipperary in the opening game of the Munster championship which doubled up as a league decider and came away with a double killing, championship progress and the league trophy.

Limerick are hot favourites for the championship again and few will find an argument with that after how they excelled last season.

Each county manager and his selectors will look at the league from different perspectives.

Cork's Tim O'Mahon dejected after the loss to Galway last spring. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Cork's Tim O'Mahon dejected after the loss to Galway last spring. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Some may adopt an experimental approach for the forthcoming games with a view to blooding younger players who might have something to offer in the Munster and Leinster championship and thereafter in the All-Ireland series.

Cork certainly need an infusion of new blood in certain areas and whilst the material seems to be coming through more so than for some time, there is still a fair step up from U20 to the senior stage.

Therefore it’s imperative that the new players that will be introduced during the five national league games show a strong hand that would catapult them into championship contention.


Cork simply need to be able to compete with the likes of Limerick in the squad stakes, having those extra options.

Most of the other counties are in the same boat, getting up to the level Limerick have reached and if they don’t the MacCarthy Cup will return to Shannonside again.

Of course, you just never know with the league. Two years ago, Tipperary were beaten by Dublin in the quarter-final and in the aftermath of that result there was a lot of scepticism in the Premier County.

But look what transpired, a few months later they were All-Ireland champions.

This season’s league is unique because of how late it is starting.

In the normal course of events, it would be much nearer to finishing now and counties would have had a pre-season competition to get things started Therefore it’s all a bit uncertain really and we don’t quite know what to expect.

There will be obvious rustiness at the start and if one is thinking of wagering a few bob on the various games they might be better off holding off for a while.

With the Munster championship draws having been made yesterday and counties knowing that they are going to be coming up against each other in a few weeks time in that competition there might be a tendency not to show your opponent too much.

But then again a good start can be half the battle as we saw last season.

Cork and Waterford opened up their league campaign in the league in Walsh Park and it was a home win. When the sides met in the championship it was the same outcome.

Similarly, with Tipp and Limerick in both the league and championship, two Limerick wins. Both Limerick and Waterford gained very early momentum and they carried that right through to the All-Ireland final.

The league is never an outright priority but it can be a mighty stepping stone.


More in this section

Sponsored Content



Add to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more