BY JOHNNY CAROLAN
WHILE Ed Sheeran’s concerts at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the end of April have denied Cork a home game in the Munster SHC, manager Kieran Kingston is not making an issue of the fact that his team have to take on Clare at FBD Semple Stadium.
It was announced on Tuesday that the game – originally scheduled for May 15th – has been brought forward by a fortnight to avoid Cork playing on three consecutive weekends.
Even in the original slot, Sheeran’s gigs on April 28th and 29th had made it impossible for Páirc Uí Chaoimh to host the Cork-Clare tie. Though Páirc Uí Rinn was a possibility, the greater gate receipt potential Thurles possessed meant it was a likelier choice.
‘It’s a long way down the track,’ Kingston said, ‘but we were fully apprised by the board of the possibility that Páirc Uí Chaoimh would not be available and how that would impact us in terms of where we’d go to play.
‘It’s not a surprise we’re not playing in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Obviously, we’d prefer to play in Páirc Uí Chaoimh but as that’s not available, this is a good alternative. Without being disingenuous about Páirc Uí Rinn, we’re quite happy to go to Thurles. Cork supporters like going to Thurles, tickets won’t be an issue, and the player group is happy to play in Thurles.
‘Being brutally honest, if you had a straw poll tomorrow among the Cork players about playing in Cork or Thurles it’d be 50-50.’
The Banner are the opposition for Saturday’s Allianz HL opener in the Páirc at 5pm. With some key players retiring, Kingston is hoping that newer panel members can be integrated.
‘We've had three high-profile retirements with Eoin Cadogan, Bill Cooper and Colm Spillane,’ Kingston said.
‘A number of the U20s have joined the squad from the last two All-Ireland winning teams. Conor Lehane is back into the squad, Mark Coleman new captain, Seán O'Donoghue new vice-captain. Mark Keane has joined the squad as well, albeit haven't seen much of Mark yet because of his club involvement. It's a very young squad which is great for now and the future of Cork hurling.’
Back in the set-up is Conor Lehane, who played such a key role in Midleton winning the 2021 Premier SHC.
‘I've always operated a very fluid panel and players know that,’ Kingston said.
‘The panel is never fixed. That's very important for competition within the group, form, injury, attitude, application, whatever it might be, change of work, change of profile, fellas moving.
‘Conor knew that when he was leaving the panel, that the opportunity would be there for him to rejoin, as any other player would know when we speak to them if they're no longer part of the squad. He took that opportunity with his club, had a really, really good club season and we'd like to have him back.
‘Jack O'Connor hasn't trained in a while, he’s just coming back now. Robbie O'Flynn hasn't trained in a while, just coming back now. Declan Dalton, Niall Cashman, Alan Connolly are long-term injuries, haven't trained at all with two or three months. Declan hasn't trained with us.
‘Niall is just back doing a little bit with us and Alan is out, dislocated his shoulder and again is rehabbing from that, so we haven't seen him either. They're difficult injuries to gauge.’