Providing further game-time for panel members is the key focus as Cork take on Limerick in the Co-op SuperStores Munster Hurling League, though of course achieving a positive result is also a priority.
Having beaten Kerry last Thursday, another victory in Páirc Uí Rinn on Sunday (2pm) would send Cork through to the final. On Tuesday, the Rebels beat UCC in the Canon O’Brien Cup at the Mardyke and Ryan is hopeful of another positive result.
“The more competitive games we get, the better,” he says.
“We’re playing Limerick, the All-Ireland champions – I know they’re just back from holidays and that, so we’re not sure what kind of team they’ll have out.
“We’re trying to get game-time into our squad and there are some of the lads who played with UCC on Tuesday that have played no game with us – the likes of Shane Barrett, Conor Cahalane, Cormac O’Brien, they’ll probably get game-time. We just need to see where they’re at.
On Tuesday, Cork won by 0-25 to 1-15 and there were more positive signs but the scheduling wasn’t ideal from Ryan’s point of view.
“My disappointing thing is that we’d have loved to have played this game on December 30,” he says.
“It would have given us a chance to spread out the net a bit wider when we have so many fellas playing Fitzgibbon but we weren’t allowed to play a game at that time, which I think is crazy.
“That would have made life easier for us in terms of loading and stuff like that. We obviously have to play January 5, 10 and 15 and the colleges are out next week.
“That’s the joys of it, we have a young squad and in fairness to Tom Kingston with UCC and John Mortell with MTU, they’re making huge strides with their players as well.
“What we’re trying to do at the moment is concentrate on the attitude and the effort of the team, getting fellas working as hard as they can,” he says.
“At this time of year, you want to move the ball as directly as you can. That would be the way we want to play – get the ball into our inside forwards a bit quicker but that’ll take a bit of time.
“Obviously, there were balls that we hit too straight up the field from too far a distance back and that made it harder for our inside line to win it. That’s a work in progress.”
The Canon game allowed the Cork management to assess players on both sides and the net will continue to be spread wide.
“From our point of view, we had our own squad who got game-time and we had seven or eight with UCC as well,” Ryan says.
“We had five or six away with MTU and another ten or 12 above in Páirc Uí Rinn training, so we got an awful lot of work done that we needed.
“That’s only our second game after playing Kerry last week and we’re just trying to get game-time into fellas. We’re building relationships with fellas and finding out what we need to do and fellas are starting to understand a bit more what we want.
“We have 22 involved with colleges – 19 playing Fitzgibbon and three playing freshers. We’re delighted with the fellas who came in on Tuesday – I thought Daniel Harrington had an excellent game when he came on, Aaron Myers got a great score, Brian Keating was there with us as well from the 20s.
“The effort probably wasn’t what I would have liked in the first 15 minutes but they grew into the game a bit more. We’re looking for effort and a bit of character and a good attitude at this time of year.
“Obviously, we still have more hurling to do and there are more matches to be played.”
Injury-wise, Cork have a few short-term absentees but nothing to panic Ryan.
“Shane Kingston will be three to four weeks, that kind of way,” he says.
“They’re small, niggly injuries that you have this time of year. We’ve a good few fellas coming back, we had one or two legacy injuries – Séamus Harnedy will be out for another three or four weeks with a knock he picked up with St Ita’s in the semi-final of the East Cork championship.
“But he’s on the way back, he’s training hard, Damien Cahalane is training hard, we had a few more back Thursday night.
“The only long-term injuries are Mark Coleman and Alan Connolly, but aside from that, everybody will play some part during the league.”