BRIAN Hurley can’t wait to get back on the pitch for Cork in 2020, but he’s well aware of how important next year’s league campaign will be.
The Rebels’ relegation from Division 2 last season means Ronan McCarthy’s men will start the new year as a Division 3 team. Add in the introduction of the new Tier 2 football championship and there is even more pressure on Cork to earn promotion back to Division 2 instantly.
If Cork don’t finish in the top two in Division 3 next Spring, then they will have to beat Kerry in next summer’s Munster SFC semi-final if they want to compete in the All-Ireland championship. Otherwise, they’re consigned to Tier 2.
It all means that there is a lot at stake for Cork in next year’s league.
‘It sounds a lot easier than it’s going to be but we have to get out of Division 3,’ Cork forward Brian Hurley said.
‘We’ll have to take it game by game. We have Offaly up first. People will say that’s a handy one for Cork but I don’t see it that way. You see with the weather; pitches can be waterlogged, sticky football, and Offaly will love a cut off us so we need to be focussed on every game.
‘We need to focus game by game, hopefully pick up points as we go along, but it is a crucial league campaign for us and it’s one that we have to be fit and ready to go for.’
Cork start off at home to Offaly in January and they also entertain Down, Derry and Louth at Páírc Uí Chaoimh, while they face away trips to Leitrim, Tipperary and Longford. Considering Cork were involved in the Super 8s this past season and, for long stretches, held their own with Dublin, Kerry and Tyrone, the general feeling is that Cork are good enough to win promotion, but they have to back that up in Division 3 early next year.
‘If I was being brutally honest, we have seven games in the league and if we don’t come out on top after playing all those games and get the opportunity to go up and get into Tier 1, you possibly deserve to be in Tier 2,’ Hurley admitted.
‘It is in our own hands. We won’t do pressure, there are a lot worse things out there in life than worrying about football. It’s there to be enjoyed and we are looking forward to the first game.’
On a personal level, Hurley can’t wait for the new year. This past season saw him return to the top level after several seasons on the sideline with career-threatening hamstring injuries. His performances for Cork, including his haul of 2-4 against Laois, saw him shortlisted for an All-Star award, as the Castlehaven man got his career back on track.
‘2018 didn’t go for me, 2019 there was big progress, and I can’t wait for 2020. Whether it is Offaly, Dublin, Laois or Kerry in my first game, I’m going to be ready for it and I’m looking forward to it,’ he said after getting through a full season without any serious injuries.
‘I always hoped I’d get back to this level. The league didn’t go the way I planned it to go but luckily the medical team got me in the right shape and got me back in for championship. I was very, very happy with it overall. At one point I didn’t think I would see that day, and now I take it week by week and see how the body is and try to push it to the max.
‘Looking back over the last few months, I’m very happy but I still think there is more to go, just to put in the hard work in the winter and bring it out in 2020.’
- Brian Hurley was speaking at the announcement that UPMC, which offers trusted, high-quality health services at UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford and other facilities in Ireland, will work with the GAA/GPA to promote the health of Gaelic Players and the communities in which they play.