PAUDIE Kissane isn't in the least bit concerned that many pundits appear to be writing Cork off as genuine contenders for All-Ireland glory this year.
On the contrary, the Clyda Rovers clubman believes it will do Cork's prospects no harm at all, pointing out that the reduction in expectation levels eases the pressure on the team to a certain extent.
"It's just the way the media works, we were being built up as the team that would take all the beating after winning the league over the past few seasons, and now all of a sudden the talk is that Cork have gone back a bit. We got one or two disappointing results in the league, and we finished the campaign with a poor performance against Mayo, but we are satisfied we are in good shape, even if a lot of people are saying we are a team in transition.
"The key thing is that there are some great young fellas coming through, the likes of Damien Cahalane, Tom Clancy and Brian Hurley, and that's something we didn't have last year and is a definite positive. From the team that lost to Donegal in last year's All-Ireland semi final, there was a huge turnover in personnel for the championship game against Limerick a few weeks ago, and it's an indication of our strength in depth that we were able to bring on experienced players like Donncha O'Connor, Fintan Goold and Noel O'Leary in the second half.
"When we won the All-Ireland in 2010, it was the introduction of such seasoned players as Derek Kavanagh and Nicholas Murphy in the last quarter that got us over the line in tight games against Dublin and Down. Maybe that's the strategy the management have in mind again this year, but competition for places is so intense that nobody knows what the starting fifteen is going to be from game to game," Kissane commented.
An All-Star wing-back in 2010, Kissane filled an unfamiliar role at corner-back in the Limerick game, and he says he would be happy to wear any jersey from No 1 to 15.
"It's a huge honour any day you play for Cork, and I have been fortunate to be involved on a regular basis since 2008. I played league under Larry Tompkins in 2002 and 2003, but then there was a change of management and I wasn't fancied. I was lucky enough to be given another chance when Conor (Counihan) was appointed, and the last five years have just flown by," admitted 33-year-old Kissane, who has won every major honour with Cork in the meantime.
Obviously, he would like to win a second an All-Ireland before he calls it a day, but he says lining out in Croke Park next September isn't something that's occupying the thoughts of any Cork player at the moment.
"I know it's a cliché, but it really is one game at a time as far as we are concerned, and it's the one thing that Conor has always drilled into us. So, it's all about Clare in Ennis on Sunday, and, while we will be going in as overwhelming favourites, we know how important it is to focus on getting our performance right.
"Clare will have been eyeing this game all year, they will have Mick O'Dwyer involved on the backroom team, and I know from playing with Munster alongside the likes of Dave Tubridy and Gary Brennan over the last few years that they have some outstanding footballers.
"We won't be under-estimating them, that's for sure, and if we are any bit below form at all, we could be in for a right battle," he warned.
A graduate in Sports Science from Brunel University in London, Kissane recently set up his own company, (Paudie Kissane Athlete Development and Performance), and he says it's always something he wanted to do.
"It involves running a high performance clinic for kids, and I'm doing sessions and workshops in clubs and schools at the moment. It's very challenging, but it's the reason I went to College in England for three years in my mid-twenties, and I'm delighted with the way it's going," he revealed.