LAST weekend’s matches were the best we have seen so far. The players’ touch and sharpness were better, and it’s great to see goals being scored again. Especially in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Cork showing the right kind of attitude, even if Westmeath were very poor. Players really working hard to get these scores, and the one thing I have noticed about Cork is the unity of purpose that they are showing, especially in the forward line. They are putting in the work, putting pressure on the opposing defenders, and not letting the ball be cleared as easily as before.
Kieran Kingston is getting his team well organised, and of course, a great advantage here is the amount of young players he is introducing. They bring a lot of enthusiasm and freshness to any set up. Fair play for introducing these guys, because there are a lot of good young hurlers in Cork.
Right now it’s hard to know the make up of the Cork team for the championship. Could this be the youngest Cork team we will see in the championship in a long time? Something like they did in 1999. And we all know what happened then.
Will we see players like Alan Connolly, Shane Barrett, Daire Connery, Niall Cashman, Conor Cahalane, Sean O’Leary Hayes and Sean Twomey featuring? They won’t all make it but they are getting great experience now.
I would say the in-house matches must be great to watch, because as we all know the experienced player always wants to hang on to their spots, so I can imagine a lot of skin and hair flying.
I would think the selectors learned more there rather than playing Westmeath, who were completely out of their depth.
Cork’s last league game against Galway will be near enough their championship team so will be a bigger test.
The other two league games I saw at the weekend were very good contests. Tipperary and Galway always produce, no love lost between them.
Tipp hung on, Galway losing a player to a red card at a vital time.
The Tipperary forwards moving very well, especially Noel McGrath, Jason Forde and probably one of the sweetest strikers of any era, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer, looking a lot fitter than he has been.
I still think they have problems in their defence, despite the great work of Barry Heffernan, Ronan Maher and of course one of the most outstanding hurlers of the season so far, Cathal Barrett. The centre is a bit open and can be got at.
Liam Sheedy seems to be getting a good tune out of his players again, especially Barrett and O’Dwyer; credit to Sheedy and his management.
Galway are also a team with a lot of talent, and they made a lot of changes for this and had some very bad wides as well. Daithí Burke seemed a bit sluggish in his first game of the season.
Galway are introducing some good new players: Darin Morrissey, Kevin Cooney, James Fitzpatrick, Evan Niland, Ja Mannion. Joe Canning is as fit as I have ever seen him, so fit now they are playing him midfield, but I wouldn’t play him there in the championship.
Waterford and Limerick was a tasty affair.
A bit of a red mist set in with Limerick though I thought the two Limerick players were a bit unlucky really to be sent off. Seamus Flanagan who was first to go was, but his marker Conor Gleeson was fortunate not to join him. Kyle Hayes was in a melee at the end of the game when a lot of people were involved.
These two teams have met so often in the past year it was inevitable that sparks would fly. Waterford deserved their win, they seemed to be that bit fresher and of course having an extra man for most of the game made a difference.
Limerick are doing a lot of hard training right now and the league isn’t a priority, they want to be right for championship. From past experiences in my time with Clare, that can be very hard to get right, especially when you are All-Ireland champions.
At least there was no outburst from John Kiely this week, more focused. We will wait and see.