CORK selector Johnny Crowley says that preparations have gone extremely well ahead of next Saturday night's encounter with Limerick in Division 2 of the National Hurling League.
"We went on a holiday after Christmas, which interrupted things a bit, but the lads trained while we were away, and I don't think we're too far behind. We are happy enough with the way things have gone, Kieran Kingston has been getting on great with the coaching, but you can do all the training you want, and it's only when you go out to play a competitive game that you'll know what kinda shape you're on."
Crowley, who won five All-Ireland medals as a player, is fully aware of how important the clash with Limerick is, stating that the winners will be very much in pole position in terms of gaining promotion to Division 1.
"We both want to get out of Division 2, and it would obviously be a major step towards reaching that target for whoever comes out on top on Saturday night. Unfortunately, we will be missing Patrick Cronin, Conor O'Sullivan and Seamus Harnedy, but I think Limerick are going to be a short a few as well, so it's hard to say how it will go.
"After playing them in the Munster final last year, we know what Limerick are like, they are a very good team, and you can be sure they are going to make it very tough for us."
Crowley is delighted that dual-players Eoin Cadogan and Aidan Walsh have opted to join the squad this year, and he says there are a few other newcomers who will be tested over the course of the league with a view to strengthening the panel prior to the championship.
"Eoin was with us until he decided to concentrate on football last year, and I think Aidan always wanted to have a shot at the hurling. It was just a case of getting the right system in place to accommodate their training, and Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) and Brian (Cuthbert) have managed that so far.
"They didn't play with the footballers last weekend, because they were training with us, and they have been going well since joining the squad a few weeks ago. They appear to be enjoying themselves, so you'd have to say everything is working out at the moment, and we're delighted to have them available for selection on Saturday night."
Aside from gaining promotion, unearthing some fresh blood in the league is a priority for the management, according to Crowley.
"We are hoping that a few of the new additions to the panel can lay down a marker, and it would be great if the majority of them put their hands up. After just falling short in last year's All-Ireland final replay, it could well make the difference as we attempt to go one better in the championship this year.
"The more competition for places there is the better, it creates a good dynamic in the squad, and, while we intend to put out a fairly experienced side on Saturday night, I expect there's going to be a few new faces thrown into the mix over the 70 minutes," he revealed.