WITH things hotting up now in all counties and the quest for honours intensifying, you can be certain that the inter-county management teams are out in force and keeping a very close eye on the proceedings.
Their task is trying to find fresh material that they believe might have something to offer in the league and championship of 2022. No matter how successful a county is one year, nothing stands still and there is always a great desire among management teams to ensure that no complacency sets in.
Every team boss wants to freshen things up, put a little pressure on those who are wearing the jersey and thus ensure that there’s a little more discussion at selection get-togethers.
Limerick team boss John Kiely will have been hugely satisfied with how things went for him this year and last but, at the same time, he will still be hoping to make what is already the strongest squad of players in the country even stronger.
The aim of every team boss is to maybe see something in a player that others might not see and to maybe give that player an opportunity on the inter-county stage in a few challenge games or in a national league encounter.
Here on Leeside, Kieran Kingston and the members of his team will be striving to come up with the goods in all areas and, despite reaching the All-Ireland final this time, there will be a knowledge that there’s still a considerable gap between themselves and Limerick.
The acquisition of a couple of players from the domestic front who could fit into the squad would be a big plus.
Next season’s championship will revert to the Round-Robin format in the provinces and that will make things even more difficult for everyone.
The four games that each county will have to play in the province will come thick and fast and that will heighten the need for a really strong squad.
It’s still a long way off but next season’s Munster championship is going to task every county to its fullest.
The margin for error will be minimal given that only three of the five counties will be going forward into the All-Ireland series.
That, of course, means that two leading hurling counties will have their year terminated in the month of June The same will apply in Leinster..
Cork boss Kingston will be looking to strengthen defensively and offensively and given the success at under-20 level, two All-Ireland titles in a short space of time, quite a few of those players will have to be given the opportunity to state their case, that has to be the way.
Outside of Galway, at the time of writing, the management teams for next season are now in place and there will be just the one change in Munster, Colm Bonnar coming in to replace Liam Sheedy in Tipperary.
The hope among the fraternity up there is that the former star player will provide the bit of a bounce necessary to make Tipp more of a force than they were this year.
Bonnar accepts that Limerick are the best side in the country, but he suggests that the gap isn’t as large as some make it out to be and that a few additions to the Tipperary panel could make them hard to beat, he told RTÉ radio last Sunday.
“Usually you’ll have two or three players from each club sticking their hand up for inter-county selection and it’s getting those players from each of the clubs,” he said.
“They’re the best in the county but the challenge then becomes showing you’re the best in the country.
I’m looking for fellas who have that huge passion and that huge belief in themselves. They also have to be able to get up and down the field because you can see the standards that Limerick have set.
“That’s the bar, that’s where we have to get to and I believe our players aren’t too far off that."
Interesting words indeed but there has to be a recognition too that there’s a large gap from being a standout club player to becoming a force at inter-county level.
And there’s a fair gap too between U20 level and senior but it has to be bridged.
The next few weeks are certainly going to be interesting, very much so here in Cork.
Players, hopefully, will be putting up their hands and hoping that when the inter-county squad is assembled for pre-season training they are included. And maybe that one, two or even three might make all the difference when the far bigger questions will be posed next season.
Meanwhile, one county that will surely be in the hunt is Waterford and mention of them brings us to the achievement of Ballygunner. Sunday they will face Roanmore in the county final seeking their eighth title in a row.
That is a remarkable feat by any standards in what is a strong hurling county. A long, long time ago a great Glen Rovers team achieved that eight titles in a row here on Leeside and that too was a fantastic achievement.
It takes some doing, some dedication by a bunch of players to remain at the top for such a lengthy period.
But with the right attitude and commitment, it can be done.