John Horgan on hurling: Cork have momentum but it gets much tougher from here

Preseason went well for Pat Ryan's Rebels but the real work starts in the league against Limerick 
John Horgan on hurling: Cork have momentum but it gets much tougher from here

Cork's Robbie O'Flynn battling hard against Tipp. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

THE Cork hurling management will quickly park the successful Munster Hurling League and move on the next phase of the season, which begins with the visit of Limerick to Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the opening assignment of the National League.

Cork will bring a nice bit of momentum with them into that campaign and that’s important in its own right.

Far better to have a few victories under the belt, and while it was only a pre-season competition, the Munster League will be viewed upon as being beneficial in the development of the squad and the priority of embellishing it.

Of course, pre-season competitions are quickly put on the back-burner when the more serious stuff gets underway, but team boss Pat Ryan will have taken positives from the past number of weeks.

EXPERIMENTAL

Limerick and Tipperary will be very formidable opponents for his team when the Munster Championship gets underway later on in the season and despite the fact that all the counties were in experimental mode in the Munster League, securing victories over both won’t do any harm at all.

Limerick, of course, can avenge that defeat next Saturday week in the League opener when the personnel will be much changed from their first get-together.

The priority for all management teams this week has been to reflect on the recent happenings and to decide who is going to be on board for the league campaign.

Cork used 30 or more players in their four pre-season games, the selectors had a good look at them during their game time and whether they made the desired impression or not remains to be seen.

Those players were on the training ground since the green light was given to recommence and notes will have been taken too on how they performed there.

The training ground has become more important than ever in the preparation process.

Cork went through the pre-season without at least a quarter or more of the players who will be on championship duty, players of the calibre of Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Alan Connolly, Shane Kingston, Alan Cadogan, Conor Cahalane, and Seamus Harnedy, all experienced campaigners and all that are likely to feature at different junctures in the championship.

And that’s what it will be all about, that’s how the entire season will be judged, on how you performed in the championship.

Winning pre-season competitions and even the National League is all well and good, but as Waterford found out last season, the league campaign that they prevailed in didn’t stand for a whole pile when they failed to get out of the province in the championship.

Cork had a fine victory over Tipp last Sunday, mainly because of the powerful finish that was put in by the players on duty at that time.

The impact that was made from the bench was a major contributory factor and the abundant attitude and character that was shown when the game became a bit of a humdinger of a contest was admirable too.

Ryan, in his assessment of the game, pointed out that Cork had been poor for a lot of the game, but the grandstand finale compensated for that.

Cork manager Pat Ryan. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cork manager Pat Ryan. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

And that will be one of the big priorities that the new management will address going forward, getting the team to be more consistent from game to game and particularly within games, not failing to score for long stretches.

That was something that previous boss Kieran Kingston was at pains in stressing too, consistency being the key word.

Cork gave Tipp a big advantage at one stage in the second half when they trailed by eight points, but to their great credit, they whittled that down quickly enough to change the complexion of the proceedings.

However, allowing the opposition to gain such a foothold can be a dangerous practice and you might not always be able to force your way back into the game.

Of the newcomers that have been introduced, Brian Hayes has certainly put up his hand and again, while it’s very early days and there’s an entire national league programme to go through, he has to be very much in the equation.

His physical attributes and his aerial ability could yield the required dividend.

Of course, a large number of players are in the middle of the Fitzgibbon Cup campaign and Ryan and his selectors will obviously be a keeping a close watch on how things transpire there.

STANDOUT

In UCC’s game with Maynooth last week, Shane Barrett was a standout figure with five points from play. What it’s going to be all about now from here to the championship throw-in is getting a formidable squad together, having options all over the place if the need arises.

The game has become so demanding in so many aspects that you need anything up to 25 players who come up to the required standard. Limerick, more than any other county, have illustrated that, and it’s been one of the primary reasons for their superiority over all the rest in recent years.

Cork and the rest must get into a position where they can replicate that; easier said than done of course.

Patrick Horgan wins possession from Tipperary's Cathal Barrett. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Patrick Horgan wins possession from Tipperary's Cathal Barrett. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

But a start has been made by this Cork management team and the effort and attitude from the players has been what is demanded.

The pre-season has certainly been a success on all fronts, particularly the attendance levels at several games. There was a championship atmosphere at Wexford Park last Saurday night for Wexford and Kilkenny, 14,000 present to witness a Walsh Cup game a game that was, by all accountts, close to championship standard at times.

Páirc Uí Rinn housed very big attendances too for Cork’s home games and that showed that the long layoff from inter-county activity since last July has whetted the appetite all the more.

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