HE HAS been pounding the roads for the past few months training on his own and now Luke Meade wants Cork to hit the ground running in this year’s national league.
At last, the Newcestown club man and his inter-county team-mates have some clarity. Now they have targets to aim for. They know they’re back in collective training from Monday, April 19th. They know their national hurling league campaign throws in on May 9th against Waterford. Cork hurlers know, too, they have five games in the league. Then there’s the Munster Senior Hurling Championship that kicks into life at the end of June.
‘It’s great to have those targets in sight,’ 24-year-old Meade says.
‘We have been training long enough on our own now, doing our own running and our own bits and pieces but there is only so much of that you can do without losing your mind.
‘At least now we have a target in place and something positive to look forward to. There’s a shape to the inter-county season now and that will allow our management team to make plans.’
For the past few months Meade, now living in Ballincollig, has used UCC’s Farm to get his running in and build his fitness. But running on your own gets monotonous after a while. It’s a slog. It’s hard to enjoy it, he admits. At least in training, players can get their running in during various drills and practice matches. That’s one of the reasons he’s looking forward to a return to collective training early next week.
Meade realises too that Cork need a fast start in the league – it throws in on the weekend of May 8th/9th – if they want to make an impact in the championship.
Given the layout of a condensed inter-county season, and with two weeks in between the end of the league and the start of the Munster championship, teams that can hit their stride in the league will be well placed to make an impact when the championship throws in.
‘In other years you’re planning to peak for a certain time but because it is so condensed this season, you need to hit the ground running and you need a good start,’ Newcestown dual star Meade says.
‘Usually you have a gap between the league and the championship, maybe seven or eight weeks, but there’s very little time between both this season. You can’t just turn it on and turn it off, you need to start as you mean to go on, find momentum and take that from the league into the championship.
‘That will suit us because fellas who playing well are likely to get the nod for championship because they’re so close. It’s all about form, and a good start is important.’
Meade also feels that Cork’s ultra competitive hurling league group – it includes Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford and Westmeath – is also just what the Rebels need to get them up to speed for the championship.
‘They are the teams you want to play because when it comes to the championship they are the teams that you have to beat,’ Meade says, before noting that Cork are determined not to repeat their showing in last year’s championship when they bowed out in the second round of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers.
‘There’s definitely more in this group,’ he says.
‘It was a disappointing campaign. We started off poorly against Waterford in Munster, bounced back a bit against Dublin in the qualifiers but we went out against Tipperary. Overall it was a disappointing year for us.
‘We all know in the squad that there is more in us and we want to push on this year. And we feel we can and we will.
‘With the club championships last year we didn’t get a huge amount of time to work together before we played in the Munster championship, but this year we will have a good block of work together, and the same as everyone else.
‘We want to prove that we’re better than we showed last year.’
A key addition to Kieran Kingston’s Cork senior hurling management team over the winter is Donal O’Grady, who has come on board as a coach and an analyst. He’s a former All-Ireland winning Cork manager (2004) and rated as one of the game’s top brains. With a return to collective training from April 19th, Meade wants to soak up as much as he can from O’Grady.
‘He’s a great addition to the management team. He has done it all with Cork. He managed Cork to an All-Ireland before. His knowledge of the game is unbelievable so it is great to have him on board,’ Meade explains.
‘We are looking forward to working with him face to face as opposed to a phone call or over Zoom. When you have someone like him involved you want to learn as much as you can off him.’
The Newcestown man wants to push his own game on, too. He came off the bench late in the Munster SHC loss to Waterford and then started against both Dublin and Limerick. Hopefully all those miles clocked up running around The Farm will keep the Newcestown National School teacher towards the top of the class.
‘No-one has any game time behind them or any form behind them so, as players, you have to hit the ground running as best you can when we get back training. I want to get as much game time as I can in the league and see where that leads to then,’ he adds.
The inter-county season will be short and frantic, and Meade wants to be stuck in the middle of it all.