WINNING is a fine habit to get into at any time and that is what the Cork hurlers are doing in the month of January.
Three wins from three, two in the Munster League, the other in the Canon O'Brien Cup, has ensured that there is a slight bit more room for positivity going forward.
As a result of their victory over Limerick at Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday, there will be another opportunity for Pat Ryan and his management team to have more of a look at some of the newcomers who are hoping to extend their stay on the panel into the national league.
Cork hurling supporters have not had too much to get excited about in recent times where the senior brigade is concerned but their loyalty remains intact, something that was very evident at the Boreenmanna Road venue where a substantial attendance was present for Limerick's first visit of the season.
Both Ryan and Limerick boss John Kiely were in very experimental mode again, something that was flagged in advance of the game but that did not diminish the appetite among the couple of thousand who went through the turnstiles.
Brian Hayes posted the late point that gave victory to the home team and the management will be happy with that, putting down a marker, however small it might be before the far more serious stuff begins in a few weeks when the All-Ireland champions return for the opening encounter of the NHL.
Pre-season games are of little or no relevance in the overall scheme of things and one can be certain that that wasn't a wink of sleep lost on Shannonside at the defeat. It would be a similar tale if Cork had been on the wrong end of the result.
But, as they say, a win is a win and that gives the younger players on duty a bit of a boost to their confidence levels.
The game did ignite to a slight extent in the closing minutes as both sides went chasing the win but overall it was nothing to be writing home about.
A combined total of 36 points was registered and over half of them, 21 to be exact were registered by two players, Conor Lehane with a dozen for Cork and David Reidy with nine for the visitors. All of the latter's scores were from the placed ball and he missed a fair share in the opening half before his consistency levels increased thereafter.
Lehane was Cork's most influential operator, he was unerring from free shots and converted a few beauties as well from open play. This might only have been a pre-season game in the month of January but let there be no doubt about it, the Midleton player illustrated again that form is temporary and class is permanent and he is surely going to be a key figure again going forward for Cork.
The other player who stood apart was Ciaran Joyce at centre-back, continuously sweeping up and even at this ridiculously early juncture in the season, it's obvious that he is going to be the defensive lynchpin in the construction of the Cork defensive formation, a player with an immense presence.
Cork split the sticks with some very well-executed points in both halves with Cormac Beausang and Brian Hayes securing a brace apiece.
A few goal chances were created but not converted but that's something not to be overly worried about at this stage.
It was obvious that Cork had a bit more done than a Limerick squad who had been on holiday and a 15 wides tally showed up their ring rustiness.
Cork were more economical with their final delivery but again no big deal should be made of anything that transpired last Sunday. Ryan will be delighted to get another game under his belt when Tipperary come out of the opposite corner in the final when the emphasis is likely again to be on experimentation.
New Tipperary boss, Liam Cahill will be happy enough too to have another game in that final when he and his selectors can have another look at the players that he is hoping will be able to take the leap onto the bigger stage when that is erected with the commencement of the national league. Tipp are building, of course, from a low enough base after last season's trials and tribulations.
One thing, though, is certain, when Limerick come to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the first Saturday of next month their starting 15 will be much changed from what it was last Sunday. The same will apply to Cork but injuries will rule out a number of players who are almost definitely going to be championship starters.
The work on the training ground will intensify too but as we stated in previous columns, the approach to the national league by the counties is likely to be varied, some putting more eggs into that particular basket than others.
If memory serves me rightly, Limerick had just one win and a draw in their league group last season and they chose to put that competition well down the list of their season's prioritises.
The championship format in the provinces has decreed now that you have to be in a position to peak at the exact right time, each county facing four serious tests of their credential with just three of the five having their Summer extended Timing is everything now, having the players in the peak of condition, physically and mentally for the championship questions.
We'll continue to learn bits and pieces at this juncture in the year, a few players will do more than others in impressing the management and ensuring that they will be in with a shout but it's still very much a preparation process for everybody.