The John Horgan column
GIVEN how poorly the team performed last season, the road to redemption for the Cork hurlers was always going to be difficult.
Some pundits rank the county as low as ninth in the pecking order and as All-Ireland contenders they don’t figure at all. However, writing Cork off to such a degree has proved to be well wide of the mark in the past and with Cork hurling, hope always springs eternal.
That journey on that road to redemption has begun and whilst it did not rock any foundations, the win over Kerry last Sunday had its positives. Now, for one minute are we suggesting that a whole pile should be read into a win over Kerry but a start has to be made somewhere.
Over the coming weeks and months we’ll learn a lot more about the direction this journey is taking but first things first.
From a public viewpoint the big issue in Mallow last Sunday was how the new, young guns in the team would fare out. For the pre-season anyway, Kieran Kingston and his selectors are giving youth its fling and the initial viewpoint would have to be positive.
While still acknowledging that Kerry not a hurling county of renown, the performances of a number of young Cork players was very encouraging.
Shane Kingston delivered nine points and worked very hard, Darragh Fitzgibbon clung a fine goal and a few points as well while Mikey Cahalane secured four very tasty points. This fellow had a health issue a few years ago and at one stage it looked like he would not hurl again.
But that’s past tense now and his is one of the very good news stories for hurling followers everywhere and long may his comeback continue.
Mark Coleman and David Griffin did well in their defensive duties and settled into the game while Sean O’Donoghue got stuck in when he replaced Killian Burke. Then there was Luke Meade who came in for Seamus Harnedy and scored three exquisite points.
So, overall, a good day at the office for these fellows.
However, team boss Kieran Kingston was quite right to urge caution and for fans to be patient too where these fellows are concerned.
It takes more than an overnight to grow into becoming a senior, inter-county hurler and time will be of the essence where these young players are concerned.
Brian Corcorans don’t fall off trees and one cannot be getting carried away about games in the pre-season.
How many of these fellows will feature against Limerick next Sunday in the Gaelic Grounds, we don’t know.
Whilst Kerry competed admirably for 40 minutes last Sunday the trip to the Ennis Road will be far more daunting and more will be learned that day. This of course was the second time in 48 hours that we saw a Cork hurling team in action with a near U21 selection losing to UCC at the Mardyke on Friday night.
The two best Cork players on duty were Conor Lehane and Alan Cadogan for UCC and their quality shone through all through.
Another player who did catch the eye but, unfortunately, he is not a Corkman and that was Billy McCarthy from the Thurles Sars club. He posted five points over the hour and looked a fine prospect and one to keep a monitor on going forward.
A lot of people of course question the worth of these games at this time of the year and alongside it the huge training schedule that the players are undergoing. As an old-schooler, I believe it has gone too far altogether and that the enjoyment has gone out of the game.
A lot, in fact most of the former players that one comes into contact with wholeheartedly agree and someone has to cry halt soon, otherwise player burnout will just get worse and worse.
No one is taking issue with Cork teams here because it’s across the board and if you are not doing it and thereafter not successful you will be blamed for not following the path of other counties. It is certainly a difficult one to handle but in recent weeks we have seen a number of Cork footballers calling time on their inter-county careers.
That word enjoyment was used as one of the reasons why they opted out. In the past players trained hard too, they played hard as well but ask any of them and they’ll tell you that they enjoyed themselves as well.
Is that the case now?
Elsewhere last Sunday, there was quite a bit of interest in Davy Fitzgerald’s first real game in charge of Wexford. Well, as it turned out it was a total mismatch against UCD but the new man in charge read hardly anything into it.
Let’s be honest, Wexford won’t win Leinster or the All-Ireland so the big priority for them would be getting out of Division 1B of the league. Fitzgerald, quite rightly pointed out afterwards, that the task was going to be mammoth for them given that their first two games are against Limerick and Galway.
Division 1B is now as competitive as 1A and Limerick are desperate to emerge from it after numerous failures in recent times.
Galway will want out of it as well which of course makes Fitzgerald’s job all the more difficult.
If somehow he can manage to accomplish it, it would be a great, early achievement.
Anywhere the former Clare goalkeeper goes there will be public interest and this battle for the two spots in Division 1B will be fascinating as it unfolds.