John Horgan: Consistency will be key for Cork hurlers in a strange year

Young talent is available to Kieran Kingston but the step up is rarely straightforward
John Horgan: Consistency will be key for Cork hurlers in a strange year

Daire Conneryin action for the Cork U20s. Will the Na Piarsaigh man force his way into Kieran Kingston's starting 15? Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

EVERY manager will sit down with the rest of his backroom team over the coming week in advance of the commencement of the NHL and set out the things that require to be prioritised.

Cork boss Kieran Kingston has been at pains to stress during his first and second term as team boss that consistency from game to game and within games is of paramount importance if success is to be achieved.

And that is something that must be better this time, beginning with the opening league game against Waterford next Sunday week.

In the not-so-distant past we have seen Cork hurlers put in one very good 70 minutes followed by an indifferent one the next day out.

Also, we have witnessed one very good half of hurling which firmly laid down a platform for the second period only for that platform not to be built on.

In an interview last season before the league began and in the aftermath of a defeat by Limerick in the Munster League final Kingston had this to say: “That’s something I would be looking for from us as a group, from the players and from us as a management group, that we are consistent irrespective of the result.

“Let the result take care of itself, it’s important we start building consistency in terms of our performances.

“That’s something that this team has been criticised for over the last while and that’s the number one objective going forward.”

Cork manager Kieran Kingston and selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Cork manager Kieran Kingston and selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Of course, that lack of consistency can be applied to most teams and we saw it last season with the most successful county of the lot, Kilkenny who looked to be well on their way to victory over Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final only for the game to be turned on its head thereafter.

It also happened to Kilkenny in the Leinster championship to Dublin when a one-time lead of 15 points was whittled to just one before they finally prevailed.

Any student of the Premiership in England will be aware of the importance of consistency from one game to the next.

Liverpool achieved a remarkable level of consistency to canter into the winner’s enclosure last season and Manchester City, to a lesser degree, have done the same this time.

Manchester United’s failure on that consistency front has had myself and other supporters tearing our hair out and drawing too many games has been their downfall in terms of being closer to the rivals from across the city.

Across any sporting landscape, it is common for one great performance to be followed by a relatively poor one and that perplexes supporters more than anything else.

But that’s the way it is and no team is probably ever going to reach that level of consistency that is craved but the ones that get closest to it will have a far better chance.

Returning to the Cork hurlers and the commencement of their league campaign and something that team boss Kingston will be hoping for is a successful integration of younger players into the team.

At this juncture in time, Cork hurling has some very talented material at its disposal and the management will certainly be hoping that come the championship a couple of these guys will be there or thereabouts in the equation for selection.


Of course, the transition from underage to a senior inter-county set-up can take time in certain instances.

There is a considerable step-up in grades, physically, in particular, and a team management must be confident that a player or players are ready for that.

How many of the younger brigade can you bring in at the one time and what happens if an U20 player is included and things don’t work out right on the day.

This year is different in so far as you don’t have that great amount of time to be in a position to expose younger players to the demands of the senior stage.

There has not been a time for collective training that you had in the past to assess players who you might be thinking are ready for graduation day that is the championship.

Trying to get the right blend will be a priority for this Cork management and being confident that those younger players you are going to choose are ready.

Again, Kingston was right when questioned about how you deal with the integration process in an interview last year.

“It’s great when they’re mentally and physically ready for it, but if not it’s how you develop that mental and physical capacity to make sure that when you put them in they’re in the best position to express themselves,” he said.

The Cork starting 15 for the visit of Waterford in the league opener next Sunday week will certainly be very interesting. How many of the very talented, young players that are coming through will be included and thereafter how many will still be holding down a position for the championship opener against Limerick.

One would have to be optimistic with the young talent available but the timing will be crucial over the course of the national league and forthcoming championship clash with Limerick.

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