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Cork boss Ryan looking to use league to develop options

February 4th, 2023 10:00 AM

By Southern Star Team

Cork senior hurling manager Pat Ryan.

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BY JOHNNY CAROLAN

THE visit of All-Ireland champions Limerick to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday (7.30pm) should draw a big crowd as Pat Ryan takes charge of Cork in the Allianz Hurling League for the first time.

However, while the new man is keen to use the competition to assess the players, new and old, available to him, he is wary of getting too caught up in this Limerick challenge – or indeed the longer-term quest to dethrone the Shannonsiders.

‘To be honest, we’re not reading too much into it,’ he says.

‘I’m after being involved before so you know that February 4th and April 30th [Cork’s Munster SHC opener against Waterford] will be totally different.

‘At the same time, we want to see what our fellas are capable of when they go up against a top-class inter-county team like Limerick.

‘The one thing that you know Limerick will bring is a savage attitude and that’s what we’ll be looking for from our fellas as well. We’ll have to match their attitude and character and really go after their game and see where that takes us.

‘It’s not going to define either of the two of us in terms of what way the year goes but, every time you go out and play – especially on your own patch – you want to play well.’

Cork's Con O'Callaghan wins possession ahead of Limerick's Barry Murphy during their Munster Senior Hurling League game at Páirc Uí Rinn last month. (Photo: George Hatchell)

 

Cork have begun the year fairly well, beating Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary to claim the Co-op SuperStores Munster Hurling League. The level of competition lifts a notch now and Ryan is keen for his players to do the same.

‘I suppose what we’re trying to get out of the league is a consistency of performance,’ he says.

‘You want to see that fellas are going to represent the jersey properly on every night that they put it on.

‘If we can build combinations in terms of players playing together and get certain areas of the field nailed down for the championship, that’s brilliant.

‘Then, obviously, trying to figure out if we can add more competition to the group – you’re looking at the new fellas that we’ve brought on to the panel and fellas that have been there with the last 12-24 months that maybe haven’t had enough game-time, can they add strength to us and make us more competitive?

‘Of the 30-odd players that we’ll have on the panel by the end of the league, the more fellas that we think can play championship, the more competitive training becomes and they react to that.

‘Fellas are itching to get back on the field now because they see guys playing well in matches and winning the Munster league was good in that regard. They’re wondering when they’re going to get their chance and that makes things very competitive, which is great for us.’

Apart from Alan Connolly and Mark Coleman, who will be out for the entirety of the league, Cork also have injury concerns with Darragh Fitzgibbon (shoulder), Tim O’Mahony and Séamus Harnedy for Limerick and the second match against Galway.

‘Séamus had a cartilage injury that he picked up last year,’ Ryan says.

‘We had been hoping to rehab it but he needed an operation. He’s back running now with a while and so is Tim, he had a small tendon injury – he hurt his knee against the Glen, a legacy injury that flared up again.

‘He’s back, doing a savage amount of running at the moment and we’re just keeping him out of contact. He should be back into full training by the start of next week.’

Cork's Shane Barrett gets to the ball ahead of Limerick's Ciarán Barry in the Co-op Superstores Munster Senior Hurling League at Páirc Uí Rinn. (Photo: George Hatchell)

 

Otherwise, it’s a case of seeing what those available can do against a side that Ryan feels deserves credit as much for their hurling as their physique.

‘They’re used to winning at this stage and they get great confidence from that,’ he says.

‘Lots of fellas comment on them being strong and big and all of the strength and conditioning and that’s all true, but if you look back at what their players have won at Fitzgibbon and under-age level – they have the best hurlers at the moment.

‘They have some of the best hurlers that have played the game in the last 20 years and I think their level is absolutely fantastic. That’s under-estimated when you see guys who are 6’ 4’ or 6’ 5’. That’s a challenge for all of us, to get up that.

‘But, to be honest, after Saturday, we’ll be parking Limerick. They’re the last game we play in the Munster championship and if we focus on that too early, you’d be well out of the running by that stage.

‘We’re trying to prepare for the championship and if we can find a few fellas who’ll give us performances in every game and the team starts playing to a pattern that we want them to play to and what we ask them to do, that’s what we’re trying to get out of the league as a whole.’

 

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