GIVEN that Cork lost five of the eight league or championship games they played in 2020, beginning the 2021 season with a win and a draw represents progress.
The Rebels have played Waterford and Tipperary, the teams who defeated them in last year’s championship, and the fact that this has been done while a new panel is asserting itself adds to the element of satisfaction.
Though Tipperary secured a draw by scoring the final two points of the game last weekend, Cork manager Kieran Kingston could take heart in the fact that a quarter of their 16 points were scored by substitutes – Conor Cahalane with two while Daire Connery and Alan Connolly had one each.
With Séamus Harnedy and Shane Kingston out from before the game and Robbie O’Flynn having to come off before half-time, the manager is happy to see competition for places developing.
‘We were missing a few lads who were injured coming into the game and we lost a couple during it,’ he says, ‘so you were down a few of the bigger names and it’s great to give these lads a chance.
‘I said before the start of the league that, for us, it was about (a) building momentum and (b) building a championship panel.
‘You’re not going to build a panel unless you give lads opportunities and you’re playing Tipperary in Thurles in May – outside of the crowds, it’s championship fare, more or less, because everybody is preparing for championship.
‘Whilst it’s unfortunate to be missing lads, it does give an opportunity to see the other guys at this level of hurling against the All-Ireland champions of two years ago.’
While Cork didn’t match the five-goal haul of their opening game against Waterford, they did manage two while Tipperary failed to raise a green flag. Given that the hosts played a sweeper, Kingston was happy to have found the net but disappointed that it didn’t lead to a win.
‘Yeah, that’s pleasing and it’s obviously something we’re trying to work on,’ he said.
‘Tipp set up with an extra defender, so obviously you’re not going to have as many opportunities as you would when it’s six on six. At the same time, we created a few and got two and that was very pleasing.
‘It’s probably frustrating that we didn’t bring it home, though – when you get two goals and don’t concede any, you feel that maybe it’s a game you should win.’
Now, the focus turns to Sunday’s clash with Westmeath on Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. While Shane Kingston, Harnedy and O’Flynn are likely to remain out, Kieran Kingston will expect no complacency from the players who are given opportunities.
'We certainly won’t be underestimating Westmeath in any shape or form, we played them last year up in Westmeath and we were lucky to get out of there,' he said.
‘It certainly gives us an opportunity, no different to Saturday, to make a few changes but at the same time we have to keep the core of our team right – you’re trying to get a balance of having the core of your team and still giving guys opportunities to play at this level in preparation for championship.’