John Horgan assesses the changes to the Cork hurling panel

Rebels have talented young hurlers on board and need to upgrade their back-line, but will it be too much, too soon for some?
John Horgan assesses the changes to the Cork hurling panel

Brian Keating and Darragh O'Mahony, Ballincollig, tracking new Cork senior Ethan Twomey, St Finbarr's. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

ARRIVALS and departures, that might be a good way to describe the Cork senior hurling squad for the immediate future.

There may be alterations made before the real business begins with the Munster SHC in the Summer but in the shorter term the squad looks to be what it is.

A strong performance in the Fitzgibbon Cup campaign might, however, catapult one or two more on to it but we’ll wait and see.

There will be changes to every squad every season and no matter how successful or unsuccessful a team has been, long-term injuries and retirements will decree that.

Nothing stays the same and despite how successful Limerick have been in recent times, one can be certain that John Kiely will always be looking to embellish things.

On the arrivals front in Cork, Kieran Kingston has brought in some of the best, young talent around, Midleton duo, Sam Quirke and Tommy O’Connell, Ciarán Joyce from Castlemartyr, Ethan Twomey, the Barrs, and Darragh Flynn from Ballygiblin.

On the departures side of things, Eoin Cadogan, Bill Cooper and Colm Spillane have all called time on their inter-county careers while other members of the squad and extended squad from last season have departed too.

The priority for any team management is to try and strike a decent balance between experience and those not at that level yet.

Cadogan, Cooper and Spillane did not have things easy in recent seasons on the injury front but all three were fine Cork hurling servants when they were in their prime. 

They all had one thing in common, they were physically strong individuals with no shortage either in the industry stakes.

Replacing those types of players is not and will not be easy.

The most interesting addition to the squad, however, from last season is the return of Conor Lehane. It has to be said that his return is most welcome because you are dealing here with one of the best club forwards in the county.

In fact, many were quite surprised that he was omitted last season. Okay, his form might have dipped from the high standards he had set but, as they say, form is temporary, class is permanent.

Midleton did not have a good day at the office in the Munster club championship against Kilmallock but he rifled over some fine points from play in that game and over the course of the domestic season on Leeside, he proved his undoubted class.

His return is justified, all the more so as he is going to be one of the most experienced players in a squad that will contain so many young guns.

Comeback kid Conor Lehane. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Comeback kid Conor Lehane. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The graduation to the senior ranks of the aforementioned young players is justified too and Kingston will be hoping that the process of integrating them successfully into the starting 15 will happen sooner rather than later.

It’s now a well-documented fact of life that key areas, particularly in pivotal positions in defence have not been filled adequately for some time.


Kingston and his selectors will be looking towards Joyce, in particular, at filling one of the central defensive positions but at the same time bearing in mind that things you might want to happen may need that bit of time. Cork have been hugely successful at U20 and minor level in very recent times and those All-Ireland U20 and minor victories have laid down a fine platform going forward.

However, expecting too much, too soon from those young players must be taken into account too and we have seen in other counties how success at minor and U20 level does not always follow on to the bigger stage.

But the fine work at grassroots level upwards is starting to yield a greater dividend and there has to be room for optimism.

Cork have a new captain as well and there will be few dissenting voices at the choice of Mark Coleman, now recognised as one of the top hurlers in the business. His versatility has been seen to strong effect in recent years, be it in defence or at midfield. 

Kingston has worked with this player now for a few years and has, obviously, recognised his leadership qualities and has now handed him the captain’s armband. Being a Cork senior hurling captain carries its own responsibilities but the evidence is there to suggest that the Blarney clubman is the right fit.

Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan and Mark Coleman of Cork in action in Thurles last summer. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Dublin's Cian O'Sullivan and Mark Coleman of Cork in action in Thurles last summer. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan

Cork are not competing in the forthcoming Munster League so we will have to wait and see how some of the new entrants to the squad fare out in the league.

Before the real cut and thrust of the provincial campaign begins, Cork will have at least five games to have a good, hard look at some of those new players and the older ones too.

You get nothing easy at inter-county level these days and playing the best team in the country in Limerick, Wexford, Henry Shefflin’s Galway, Clare and Offaly in the secondary competition should be informative with regards to the composition of the starting 15 for the Munster minefield.

A few decent league victories would give a lot of confidence to a Cork squad that will be one of the youngest competing.

You do not want to be entering the Munster championship on the back of a very poor league campaign, and that’s why that competition is a bit more important this time.

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