Murphy ready to return for Rebels
AFTER a number of high-profile departures, there should at last be some good news on the horizon for the Cork hurlers.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his management team meet All Star defender Brian Murphy in the coming days and it is hoped the Bride Rovers man will commit to another season for the Rebels.
"We are due to sit down with him soon," Barry-Murphy revealed.
"Brian couldn't commit at the start of the year because he had a couple of things going on, but we're hopeful we can get him back. Brian was in fantastic form for us last year and, to me, he's one of the best corner-backs in the country."
Murphy's experience would be a welcome boost in an increasingly youthful Cork panel. In last Sunday's seasonal opener against UCC in the Waterford Crystal Cup, Tom Kenny was the only remaining link to the side that started the 2005 All-Ireland final win over Galway.
Murphy and the injured Donal Og Cusack are the only others likely to be involved this year.
Players have gone for a variety of reasons. Niall McCarthy's wanderlust sees him travelling the world, Sean Og O hAilpin jumped ship, while John Gardiner was pushed, although there is speculation on Leeside that he could be in line for a recall.
"We can go back to anyone we feel can do a job. Nobody has been ruled out at this stage and if we feel they'd be an addition to us, we'd certainly look at him," said Barry-Murphy at the launch of Lucozade Sport as the official sports drink of Cork GAA.
Last season's league campaign helped uncover Darren Sweetnam, but he has been lost to Munster rugby.
Eoin Cadogan and Damien Cahalane have defected to the footballers, bucking a well-worn trend in Cork, one that Barry-Murphy himself followed.
It brings to six the number of players gone from the panel that togged out against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final in August, a significant number for a squad that had already seen a significant overhaul.
"In fairness to the Cork footballers, they have been very successful for the last few years. It's very attractive to players," said Barry-Murphy.
"They have been in the top three or four teams in the country for the last few years and they have been winning things, so naturally players are going to gravitate towards that. We have to accept that.
"It's a sign of the times. It wouldn't have been the way in my own day, I suppose. When I got towards the end of my career I had to choose between the two and I went to hurling.
"I just don't think (being a dual player) is possible anymore. The back-door system in both hurling and football means the workload has gone through the roof. And the club scene is very competitive at the minute too."
Despite the upheaval, Barry-Murphy insists his is a happy camp. The hard work under trainer David Matthews, a former Olympic 800m runner, will continue up to their league opener at home to Tipperary.
Last year their league campaign uncovered the likes of Sweetnam and Conor Lehane and led to a surprise appearance in the final, in which Kilkenny were in characteristically clinical mood.
"We wouldn't be getting too carried away with last year. It was good to get to the league final, but then we got hammered in it, so that wasn't good," said Barry-Murphy.
"We got to the semi-finals of the All-Ireland, so that was further progress. We lost to Galway, but we could have been a bit closer if we had done a few things differently. So, overall, we were happy with the year."
Expectations have risen on Leeside as a result, but the overhaul of personnel is a challenge. There has been a recall for Michael Cussen, with Barry-Murphy admitting that his omission last year was "a mistake."
But with Dublin's experience last year in mind – where they were relegated from Division 1A after starting the campaign as reigning champions – Cork need a strong start.
"The league will be unbelievably competitive. You need to hit the ground running. We have three very difficult away games against Waterford, Galway and Kilkenny and we start with Tipp. So, every game is important."