The first piece of silverware of the year is in the trophy cabinet but Pat Ryan insists that nobody in the Cork hurling camp will be getting complacent.
A fine fightback saw the Rebels come from eight points down to defeat Tipperary at Páirc Uí Rinn in Sunday’s Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC final. Goals from subs Brian Hayes and Jack O’Connor were crucial in the turnaround but Ryan admitted that the after-match assessment would have been different if the game had ended after an hour.
“We’re very cognisant that we were poor for an awful lot of that game,” he said.
“We haven’t a lot done tactically and we’ve been concentrating of effort and attitude and physicality, that we’re trying to raise inside in training.
“There are a lot of aspects in that that we’ll go away and learn from but what we were delighted with was the attitude and resolve that the players showed.
"You could see here, with the Cork crowd, that we want to play silky hurling and show off our skills and all that, but we need fellas that are dying in the effort for us and I thought that lads did that in the end.”
Ultimately, the fact that Cork had the wherewithal to claw their way back into the game should stand to the squad as the Allianz Hurling League looms into view, with an opener against Limerick in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday, February 4.
“What are we training, eight or nine weeks since we took over,” Ryan said.
“There were lots of aspects we wouldn’t be happy with. We went long a lot – obviously, we had a few big lads playing and that allows you to lump the ball a bit. We want to be playing a bit more direct but I thought we lumped the ball a bit too much at times, from the wrong areas.
“In fairness to Tipperary, they were competitive under that ball and they were able to stick-pass it around and move the ball a bit quicker than what we did.
“Obviously, these few games have been all about attitude and I thought we saw that in spades at the end – not for the whole 70 minutes, but when we got a bit of momentum, you could see we were coming.
“We’re still in pre-season and we’ve a lot to do on puckouts and tactically but we’re delighted with the lads’ attitude and their resolve at the end.”
One player listed in the programme but not involved was Mark Keane, who has opted to return to Australia, joining AFL side Adelaide Crows. Ryan is disappointed to see him depart but he can understand the rationale.
“Mark has been fantastic for us,” he said.
“When we came back in, he was mad to train, even when his club was in an All-Ireland final [with Ballygiblin]. He was mad to play below in Kerry, even though we didn't want to play him!
“I won't say he was a fella who we were taking a punt on, because he was playing well with his club, but he obviously had a bit of work to do with regards to going back into the back line. He was a fella who brought a bit of physicality, good professionalism and he was a great guy around the group as well; very popular within the squad.
“But we wish him well and hopefully he gets better luck than the first time when he went over there, which was during Covid. It was a very hard time for a young fella to be away over there so hopefully he can put his best foot forward and we wish him well.”
Otherwise, with so many players juggling inter-county and Fitzgibbon Cup commitments, the panel is likely to remain in the low 40s the league starts.
“Look, we'll see where we're at with that,” Ryan said
“We have 22 fellas involved with Fitzgibbon and Freshers over the next two and a half weeks, which is an awful lot, so we need bodies around the place because there will be wear and tear on those fellas.
“I think MTU and UCC are playing on February 2, which is two days before we play our first league game, and 15 or 16 of our fellas will be involved then. Some of them will probably have to go out again on the Saturday but that's just the nature of it at the minute.”