Nobody will mind if Cork manage to pick up some silverware in the championship, but this year marks the 25th anniversary of the last time Cork won the national hurling league – in the time since, there have been five losing appearances in the final (2002, 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2022).
While Pat Ryan was naturally disappointed with the outcome, he accepted that the result now allows a clear run in terms of preparation before the championship opener against Waterford on April 30.
“Obviously, the league was about finding players and fellas getting used to our systems and the way we want to play and the way we deal with things.
“It’s been very good for us, it’s been fantastic for us, really, but we’ve five weeks now until championship and this gives us great clarity with our training and stuff like that.”
For the first time in the campaign, Cork failed to score a goal while they conceded two. It leaves them with a final tally of 12 scored and seven conceded across six league games – the six let in were spread across three matches, with three clean sheets.
“We had a couple of other opportunities,” Pat Ryan said, “Shane [Kingston] had one there in the second half and Paudie [Pádraig Power] was fouled once or twice when he was half-turning the man.
“Kilkenny defended well, we defended well as well – I think a lot of their goal opportunities came when the spare man was there.”
Perhaps it is illustrative of how the semi-finals represented a step up in intensity in that the sides finishing top of each group in Division 1 were beaten.
The fact that the two runners-up had home advantage – owing to home-and-away arrangements in each case – may have been a factor but it’s hardly coincidental that the teams emerging victorious were those who contested the All-Ireland final last July.
Against that is the fact that the Kilkenny team was also heavily changed from the defeat to Limerick last July but they did give game-time to 13 who featured against the Shannonsiders in Croke Park.
Learning the lessons of the loss will hopefully stand to Cork as they face into the championship.