CORK hurlers’ pre-season campaign comes to a conclusion this weekend when they face their greatest rivals, Tipperary, in the final of the Munster League.
Irrespective of the status of the competition, and this is well down the list of priorities for team bosses Pat Ryan and Liam Cahill, any meeting of the counties, given their history, generates a bit more enthusiasm.
In the past, one or the other would be there or thereabouts in the chase for major honours, but recent history shows that both have dropped off in the rankings.
However, things can change very quickly from one season to the next and with two new management teams, there is that bit more optimism about.
This is likely to be the only meeting between the counties before Tipperary arrive on Leeside for one of Cork’s two home games in the Munster Championship.
They are in differerent groups in the league and while they could meet in the knockout stages, that’s very much a wait-and-see situation and it will depend much on how both approach it.
Ryan expressed his delight at reaching the final of the Munster League because it will give him and his selectors another chance to throw their eyes over the newcomers in their preliminary squad.
If that had not come to pass they, would more than likely be playing a challenge game this weekend.
“We would have had a challenge game lined up but this is going to be a much mor competitive game,” he stated.
The Sarsfields clubman makes perfect sense with that viewpoint and while both counties are more than likely to be in experimental mode again, there should be more of a cutting edge to Sunday’s game.
And there should be another good attendance, as there was in Páirc Uí Rinn last Sunday when Cork edged out Limerick in a game that ignited in the closing stages with both going all out for the win.
Now there’s silverware to be won, however insignificant it might be in the bigger picture, so the message to both teams is likely to be: let’s go and win it.
Limerick have shown that winning the competition in the past did them no harm further down the line and a few new players were discovered who have become established first-teamers.
Tipperary have a lot to prove this season after a best-forgotten 2022 when their failure to make any impact in Munster had their supporters in a state of despair.
As a result, Colm Bonner was removed as manager with Liam Cahill returning to his native county after his stint with Waterford which did yield a league title, but they, alongside Tipp, failed in the provincial campaign.
In a recent survey in the Irish Daily Mirror, the Premier County was ranked ninth of the counties that would be seen as championship contenders.
That was based on what transpired last season and whether you agree or not it shows that one of the country’s most decorated counties has fallen a fair bit.
Cahill has had plenty of success in the county, winning minor and U21 All-Ireland titles but not enough of those players have been able to break into senior ranks. It’s going to be interesting to see if he can bring some more of those players into contention for championship places.
Cahill and Ryan have a lot in common, having had great success below the senior grade, they are now hoping that they can travel the extra miles that would bring senior glory back to their counties.
Ryan is certainly casting the net far and wide in the search of new blood and everybody that is out there to be looked at is being given an opportunity.
When Limerick forged three points ahead last Sunday it looked like that they would push on and secure the win. But Cork, to their credit, dug in and got the win.
That showed the character in the players on duty and that will have pleased the management.
Of course, time is moving on and the National League is looming larger on the horizon which means that the squad will have to be cut.
The big question will be how many of the newcomers will make that cut and some big calls will have to be made.
Aside from the three games that they have played, Ryan and his selectors will have had a good, hard look at the players on the training ground, their attitude, commitment, character, and so on, and it’s not always in games that can swing the issue in their favour.
In the past, Brian Cody put huge emphasis on what went on behind closed doors in Nowlan Park and a strong performance in an A v B encounter often made the difference.
Every player is being monitored closely and sometimes a management team might see something in a player that might escape those of us in the stands.
Now that Ballygiblin’s voyage has reached its successful conclusion it’s likely that a few of that team will come under the microscope, mainly Darragh Flynn and Mark Keane; the duo combined brilliantly to set them on their way with that very early goal.
The Cork and Tipp teams for Sunday should be interesting and it’s a game that should be intersting too; one with the type of edge that we associate with both counties when they encounter each other.
After all, Cork and Tipp in close quarters is something that is always that bit more special.