CORK hurling manager Kieran Kingston was encouraged as the growing strength of the Rebels’ panel came to the fore in Thurles on Saturday night.
While Cork were denied victory by a monster Jason Forde free which secured Tipperary a draw, five points of the visitors’ 2-16 tally – including the final two scores, from Conor Cahalane and Alan Connolly – came from substitutes.
Given that Séamus Harnedy and Shane Kingston were unavailable to start and Robbie O’Flynn had to come off during the game, the manager is happy to see competition for places developing.
“Yeah, it’s great,” he said.
“We were missing a few lads tonight who were injured coming into the game and we lost a couple during it, so you were down a few of the bigger names and it’s great to give these lads a chance.
“You’re not going to build a panel unless you give lads opportunities and you’re playing Tipperary in Thurles in May – outside of the crowds, it’s championship fare, more or less, because everybody is preparing for championship.
“Whilst it’s unfortunate to be missing lads, it does give an opportunity to see the other guys at this level of hurling against the All-Ireland champions of two years ago.”
However, Kingston was less happy with a free count of 22-9 against Cork and felt that some of referee Johnny Murphy’s calls were harsh.
“You could see that we were a bit frustrated there at times,” he said.
“When you draw a game and you could concede 22 scores and 22 frees – I think 15 of them were scoreable frees – and you get nine frees, you’re always going to be question what the rationale is for that and what the reasoning is.
The result leaves Cork unbeaten after their opening two league games, something which has not happened since the county returned to Division 1 in 2015. Next up is a home clash against Westmeath on Sunday, before a trip to Limerick for a championship dress rehearsal.
Harnedy, Shane Kingston and O’Flynn, all suffering with hamstring issues, are likely to remain out for the clash against the Lake County at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and, while Kieran Kingston isn’t taking that challenge lightly, he welcomes the opportunity to further test the depth of the panel.
“The guys we have out now have hamstring problems,” he said.
“I don’t think they’ll be back for the next game, it would be unlikely. We certainly won’t be underestimating Westmeath in any shape or form, we played them last year up in Westmeath and we were lucky to get out of there.
“It certainly gives us an opportunity, no different to Saturday, to make a few changes but at the same time we have to keep the core of our team right – you’re trying to get a balance of having the core of your team and still giving guys opportunities to play at this level in preparation for championship.”