Cork hurling manager Pat Ryan believes that the two-week lead-in to Sunday’s pivotal Munster SHC clash against Clare in Cusack Park (2pm) will benefit his team.
Should the Rebels triumph in Ennis, it would guarantee a place in the All-Ireland series but defeat would leave them needing something away to All-Ireland champions Limerick in their last round-robin game.
Having opened with home matches against Waterford and Tipperary on April 30 and May 6, Ryan was grateful of the gap.a
“Obviously we had a lot of preparation done for Waterford and some on Tipperary but the six-day turnaround is tough, in hindsight,” he says.
“You’re trying not to make an excuse out of it and things like that but it is a tough situation in terms of getting fellas prepared.
“We’re in a much better position going to play Clare than we were against Tipperary but it’s still a very tough game, away from home and we’ve seen how good Clare are going.
“It’s a huge game, it’s almost knockout for both of us – whoever wins is in the knockout stages, that’s the way we’re looking at it.”
Unfortunately for Cork, Robbie O’Flynn is absent after pulling his hamstring immediately after scoring his goal against Tipperary.
“Robbie’s out since the last day,” Ryan says, “he’ll be out for four-to-six weeks, so he’ll miss the Limerick game as well. It’s disappointing for us but obviously it’s disappointing for him too after he got injured against Limerick in the league.
Against that loss is the fact that captain Seán O’Donoghue, forced off with a dead leg in Cork’s opening league game against Limerick on February 4 and out of action since, is available for selection.
“Seán O’Donoghue should be good to go,” Ryan says.
“In fairness, all the lads have stepped up, Niall O’Leary has done well as captain in Seán’s absence.
“It’s testament to Seán and the effort he has put in to get back and to the medical staff too. He’s worked fierce hard to get himself fit so he’ll be in line for at least the 26 on Sunday.
“Conor O’Callaghan is still out, he’ll be another two or three weeks, and Jack O’Connor is out too, he has a bone-stress injury that we just can’t get right.
“He’s resting and then coming back training but it’s flaring up again. We’re trying to monitor that.”
Clare come into the game on the back of consecutive victories over Limerick and Waterford and another victory for Brian Lohan’s side would guarantee them a place in the Munster final.
“There’s no doubt that everyone knows who all their good players are,” he says, “the John Conlons, the Tony Kellys, the Shane O’Donnells, the Ryan Taylors, they’re all fantastic hurlers.
“Our job will be to bring our own game to it and try to get us hurling a bit more. I don’t think we got on enough possession against Tipperary, we only hurled in patches – when we hurled, we hurled very well but we gave away too much possession around the field and stood off them a bit more.
“If we do that against Clare the next day, we’ll giving ourselves too much of an uphill battle to fight back.”
After two home games, this is first of two consecutive away matches for Cork, but Ryan expects a strong level of travelling support.
“We know we’ve had big crowds at home and we’ll have a good following supporting us on Sunday, obviously there’ll be a huge Clare crowd as well.
“From our point of view, if you look at the Munster championship so far – Clare were beaten in Ennis, Limerick were beaten at home, it’s all up in the air, really.
“If we start well and get the crowd behind us making noise, you won’t know whether it’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh or Cusack Park.”