Cork are likely to adopt a horses-for-courses approach in terms of team selection during the compacted Munster SHC round-robin campaign.
On Sunday, Pat Ryan makes his championship bow as a senior manager as Waterford visit Páirc Uí Chaoimh (4pm). With the Rebels’ ‘bye week’ in the schedule having come last weekend as the competition began, they will have four outings between now and the trip to Limerick on May 28.
After Waterford, there is a turnaround of just days until Tipperary come to Cork and selector Donal O’Mahony acknowledges that there is a balancing act in terms of picking a team with the opposition in mind.
“Different teams play different styles and have different strengths and weaknesses,” he says. “As a management, you are trying to go after their weaknesses and combat their strengths, so there is an element of that.
“The intensity of Munster championship games, we have Waterford on Sunday and then the Tipp the following Saturday, a quick turnaround, so you have to manage that as well.
“It is having a squad that if a fella starts and gets an injury, that we are confident of the fellas who will replace him the following week and that they will be able to deliver value as well for us.”
During the league – where Cork won four games and drew with Clare after qualification for the semi-finals was assured before then falling to Kilkenny in the last four – the panel was tested as key players like captain Seán O’Donoghue, Tim O’Mahony, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Mark Coleman, Patrick Horgan, Séamus Harnedy and Alan Connolly were out injured for long spells.
It meant that Cork had to focus on squad-building, to the extent that more than 30 players started games. It leaves something of a nice headache now for the management in terms of picking a team and a squad for Waterford, who lost to Limerick by two points in their opener last week.
“The easy thing is go back to the tried and trusted,” O’Mahony says, “but we are trying to build an environment where Tuesday and Thursday training is really important and if you are performing in those, we will give you the jersey.
“In the league, we have given fellas a run, which people might have been surprised at.
“It is all about championship and we are in championship mode now. It is a challenge at the moment to see what the best combination is because we have fellas coming back into us who have had very little league time.
“To be fair to them as well, they have credits in the bank. They have been on the big stage for Cork before. It is just trying to get that balance and mix right.”
To that end, the management want a collective effort to ensure that everybody is driving each other on.
“One of the key metrics at the start of the year was that we wanted guys to be phenomenal team players,” O’Mahony says.
“For example, if you’re not making the matchday squad for Sunday, you use the A versus B game on a Thursday night to really challenge the fella you’re marking to get the best out of him.”
In the league, Cork were often guilty of slow starts and, while they generally responded well, it's not something that O'Mahony wants to become a habit.
"We’ve a concept of 'blue heads'," he says, "that, no matter what is happening, that there is a calmness to that chaos. And we have had that situation a couple of times in the league where we were down a few points, we worked it out, and we got the result that we needed.
"Hopefully that it will stand us in good stead in the championship because there are big tests ahead. Nobody wants a slow start, so we need to maybe attack games a lot quicker than we have been doing in the league."