The Cork team that started Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group A win over Westmeath featured six of those who had game-time against Galway in last summer’s All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Galway.
Goalkeeper Patrick Collins, stand-in captain Niall O’Leary, Luke Meade and Shane Kingston were in the 15 that began that game in Thurles in June, while Ger Millerick and Tommy O’Connell were introduced from the bench.
It’s worth bearing in mind the extent to which the new management team have spread the net in terms of blooding players and running the rule over them in the league campaign. At the same time, it’s also worth being cognisant of the standards demanded of anyone coming in, which is why manager Pat Ryan was able to declare himself disappointed with a few aspects of the 2-21 to 0-21 victory.
“I think from our point of view it was great to have fellas around to see the way we prepare for matches and to get fellas involved,” he said.
“We had three or four fellas making their debuts and things like that - and I am delighted that they got their opportunity but obviously they need to work that bit harder if they want to stay involved.
“You have to take every game on its merits and in fairness that wasn’t a very good performance so we will have to look at it.
“The disappointing thing is that you don’t mind winning by X,Y and Z but I thought our energy was low, our work rate was low and that was a huge disappointment compared to the first two games.”
The inclusion of St Finbarr’s trio Ethan Twomey, Ben Cunningham and Brian Hayes for their full league debuts on Sunday, as well as first starts of the year for Ger Millerick, Dáire O’Leary and Conor Cahalane, brought to 28 the number of players that had been selected from the off across the three games. Add to that substitute appearances for Cathal Cormack, Dáire Connery, Pádraig Power and Colin Walsh.
Cork host Wexford on Sunday week before the last group game against Clare, with a semi-final also likely. As the championship comes into view – we are at the stage where it is ‘next month’ – Ryan and his selectors will be looking to move towards a settled team.
“To be honest, we have a couple of fellas that are away at the moment,” he said, “so our plan would have been to start settling from now.
“We have started a lot of players in the league so far and the plan would have been that from the Wexford and Clare games on that we would get more settled as we go on.
"It gives them a break from us as well, which isn’t a bad thing about now.”
As well as those who have played in the league, there are another half-dozen ruled out with injury. While some of them could see action soon, others will have to wait longer.
“Alan Connolly is back rehabbing with his club,” Ryan said, “Mark [Coleman] hasn’t got back running yet so we will see where that lies over the next couple of months.
“Everyone else should be back in the next two to three weeks. Sean O’Donoghue’s quad came from a bad dead leg so that still hasn’t cleared – he is still limping around but it isn’t going to keep him out ling term.
“I think the next game will come a little too soon for himself and Patrick Horgan.
“Robbie O’Flynn is doing very good, Séamus Harnedy is doing really good. Darragh Fitzgibbon is back hurling now and we will be introducing him back into contact on Tuesday night and we are hoping Tim O’Mahony will be back on the field on Tuesday night as well.
“Alan Cadogan is training away and hoping he will be able to play with Douglas the weekend – this game came a little too soon for him. I am hoping he will get a half or 40 minutes for Douglas and then hopefully he will be factored back in after that.”