REBELS selector Kieran Kingston (below) is satisfied that Cork are in reasonably good shape ahead of next Saturday night's opening assignment in the NHL against Tipperary at Pairc Uí Rinn.
The Tracton clubman says there is a tremendous spirit in the squad at the moment, and that the attitude of the players in pre-season games and in training has left nothing to be desired.
"That's what you are basically looking for at this time of the year, because you are working in poor conditions and on poor pitches, and I'd have to say the lads couldn't have given us any more in this regard," he stated.
"Preparations have been a little disjointed, due to the fact that we haven't seen much of the guys involved with the Colleges in the Fitzgibbon Cup. We have quite a number of players with UCC, while Lorcan McLoughlin is with CIT and Luke O'Farrell is with Mary Immaculate of Limerick, but we are hoping they will all be available for selection on Saturday night.
"Apart from Pa Cronin and Jamie Coughlan, who has a hip injury and will be out for about three months, we expect to have a full squad to pick from, with Brian Murphy having returned to training two weeks ago and both Michael Cussen and Cathal Naughton having recovered from recent injuries."
Kingston revealed that Cork will be putting out the strongest possible team for the fixture, adding that it's a very big game in terms of their league prospects.
"We have just two home games this season, and we'd obviously be hoping we won't have to rely on our last two outings away to Kilkenny and Galway to pick up league points. Our priority is to retain our position in the top division, and, aside from giving the new guys we brought into the panel an extended opportunity to show they can compete at this level, we haven't set out any ambitions beyond that."
Kingston insists Cork will be giving the league the attention it deserves at the same time, making the point that, with the championship in mind, it could be hugely beneficial in regard to filling a few positions that the management feel are up for grabs at this juncture.
"We intend to give everyone a fair crack of the whip, but we realise the clash with Tipp is going to be a big test, so, while we will be taking the amount of hurling people have done up to now into account, we will be sending out our strongest fifteen. I suppose the most important thing is that we produce a good performance, but we will certainly be going all out for the win, and it would be a great start to the year if we get it."