We'll be in with a shout against Deise says intermediate boss
IT'S no surprise that Cork fortunes at intermediate level in hurling have declined significantly over the past three seasons.
The dominant power in the last decade, winning All-Ireland titles in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2009, they reached the final again in 2010, going under to Kilkenny, but a change in the rules applying to the intermediate grade the following year was always going to militate against Cork's chances of extending their impressive record in recent times.
It was decided by the powers-that-be that Cork and Kilkenny would be the only counties restricted to picking players from junior and intermediate clubs, which basically meant the other counties were able to put out something close to a second string senior side.
For all that, Cork haven't been too far off the pace in the meantime, qualifying for the Munster final in 2013 which they lost by the bare minimum against eventual All-Ireland champions Tipperary at Thurles.
With Cork's conquerors in 2011, Clare, and 2012, Tipp, also going on to collect the top prize, there is ample evidence to suggest that, despite the handicap, the Rebels remain a force to be reckoned with, and team boss Liam Hayes is certainly hopeful they can make their presence felt this season.
Their first assignment will be against Waterford in Semple Stadium next Sunday, and Dromina-man Hayes is happy enough with the way preparations have gone for the game.
"We started a bit earlier this year, because it's a first round game on Sunday, whereas we got a bye into a semi-final against Clare last year. I suppose it didn't help that the colleges competitions ran late, and the county football championship started shortly afterwards, but we got a good bit of work done at the same time, and we played four or five challenges matches.
"So, I'm satisfied our preparations weren't too bad, and that we are ready to give it a lash on Sunday," he said.
Hayes revealed that the management have had to replace three players from the original squad, because Bill Cooper, Brian Lawton and Mark Ellis have all been recruited by the seniors.
"They are obviously a loss, but we still have a very strong panel, which includes a few players with senior experience at inter-county level like Peter O'Brien (Kildorrery) Micheal O'Sullivan (Tracton) and Ross Cashman (Kilbrittain).
"As well as that, Cormac Murphy has been released from the senior panel for the game, although he's playing a championship game with Mallow on Saturday night, as are Ross Cashman and Jamie Wall with Kilbrittain.
"That's obviously something I'm not too happy about, but hopefully they'll be okay for Sunday," said Hayes.
Along with Ross Cashman, who won an All-Ireland intermediate medal in 2009, Hayes will be looking to other players with proven credentials at this level like Inniscarra's John O'Callaghan and Colm Casey to provide much of the leadership against Waterford
"We don't know a whole lot about Waterford, but they beat Tipperary, the All-Ireland champions for the last two years, in a challenge game two weeks ago, and we believe they are stronger than usual this year.
"I'd like to thing we are as good as we were last year when we were only a puck of a ball away from Tipp, and I'm in no doubt we'll be in with a good shout on Sunday if we play to our potential."