John Horgan column: Cork and Pat Ryan will be looking for positives from the Munster Hurling league

John Horgan column: Cork and Pat Ryan will be looking for positives from the Munster Hurling league

Cork Senior Hurling Championship Final, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork 16/10/2022

THE pre-season competition, the Munster Hurling League might be bottom of the priority list as far as the management teams of the six competing counties are concerned but, at the same time, they will be hoping that some positives can be taken from it.

The six participants, the first year for some time that all six are taking part are all likely to contain players who will be making their inter-county debuts and all of them will be hoping to make the desired impression that might gain them a place in their counties national league squads.

Pre-season competitions are usually taken with a grain of salt in most counties but in Munster this time there is sure to be more interest than there might have been in the past considering that in Cork, Tipperary, Waterford and Kerry, there are new management teams making their debut as well.

Pictured at the launch of the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League Left to Right: Damien Cahalane (Cork Hurler), John O’Carroll (Head Of Retail at Dairygold), Pat Ryan (Cork Hurling Manager)
Pictured at the launch of the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League Left to Right: Damien Cahalane (Cork Hurler), John O’Carroll (Head Of Retail at Dairygold), Pat Ryan (Cork Hurling Manager)

Liam Cahill's first game in charge of Tipperary is against Waterford in Dungarvan and that should bring a few extra bodies through the turnstiles in Dan Fraher's field.

Last time out when these two counties collided in the Munster SHC he was up against his own Premier County who had Colm Bonner at the helm.

And when that provincial championship had concluded neither of the two of them had made it through to the All-Ireland series.

That, of course, led to changes in both counties, Cahill replacing the very hard done by Colm Bonner and Davy Fitzgerald returing to Waterford.

Where Cork are concerned, it's a Thursday night trip over the county bounds and on to Austin Stack Park in Tralee for a joust with Kerry for Pat Ryan's first game at the helm on Leeside.

Again, it's highly likely that Ryan and his new selectors will be in experimental mode, putting the emphasis on giving the younger players in his preliminay squad the oportunity to put up their hand.

20 November 2022; A dejected Ethan Twomey of St Finbarr’s after the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship Semi-Final match between Ballyea and St Finbarr's at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
20 November 2022; A dejected Ethan Twomey of St Finbarr’s after the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship Semi-Final match between Ballyea and St Finbarr's at Cusack Park in Ennis, Clare. Photo by Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Ryan had a lot of the players he now has at his disposal under him when he led them twice to All-Ireland under-20 glory in the very recent past.

He knows everything about them and how well they performed for him in those successful years and he will now be hoping to carry the process a stage further and hoping that they can graduate on to the much bigger stage.

In an interview last week, Damien Cahalane spoke in glowing terms about the youthful talent that is coming through in Cork and he was quite right to be excited about their potential.

He saw at first hand how well the 'Barrs younger guns performed in their march to the Cork SHC title, players like Ben Cunningham, Ethan Twomey, Ben O'Connor and Brian Hayers among others.

Yes, there is reason for optimism with these players, others too like Conor O'Callagan and Eoin Downey and in the Munster League opener we should see some of them in action on Thursday night against Kerry and a week later against Limerick.

All the new management teams will hope for a winning start to their tenure irrespective of the status of the competition and Pat Ryan will be mindful that Kerry defeated Cork five years ago in Tralee in the competition and last season they proved too strong for Tipperary.

In fact, many in the Premier County will tell you that result was the beginning of one of the worst years in Tipp's illustrious history and which ultimately saw Bonner being shafted just one season into his reign as boss.

Putting down a few early markers won't do any of the new management teams any harm and, as they say, success can breed success as has been the case in the past.

Limeick won the provincial pre-season competition in 2018 and in 2020 and we all know that seven or eight months later they were taking home the McCarthy Cup.

Of course, the depth of Limerick's squad has been far greater than any of the other counties and that has been one of the primary reasons for their remarkable story of success.

They have been able to introduce players at the appropriate time in games that would start in most of the other counties.

Back in the day when Kilkenny were ruling the roost it was a similar story, so much so it was often said that if they could have entered a 'B' team in Leinster they would have reached the final against the first 15.

That was probably stretching a bit but the game is not about the starting team any more, more so it's about the team that will finish after the bench has been emptied.

The new year won't be a week old when the new season commences and squads have been together for a while now, in the gyms and on the astro turf.

Nobody will be losing sleep about early season results but you don't want to be getting off on the wrong foot either.

You can be certain that Pat Ryan's first team announcement as Cork boss will command a lot of interest in the hurling homes of the county.

It will be similar tale in Waterford and in Leinster with Kilkenny and Dublin where Derek Lyng and Miceal O'Donoghue will be getting their show on the road.

We haven't had an inter-county game of hurling of any description since last July, far too long many believe and for that reason alone there should be a greater appetite from the fans to come out and blow away the festive cobwebs.

In fact, the attendance levels at all the pre-season games should be increased from previous times and here in Munster the sponsors, Co-Op stores must be delighted that all the counties are sending out teams to compete.

For various reasons before that wasn't always the case, only four or five entering.

Yes, there will be loads of experimentation everywhere over the coming fortnight or so but if some new blood can be found, the entire exercise will have been worthwhile.

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