Rebels necessity should deliver a victory
National Hurling League Division 1A Round 3: Cork v Clare, Saturday, February 16, Páirc Uí Rinn, 7.15pm
Round three of the Allianz National Hurling League Division 1A rolls into town next weekend as Cork welcome Clare to Páirc Uí Rinn.
Obviously the change of venue for this one has been well documented and commented on so no need to rattle on about it, but one thing is for sure - the pitch at the smaller venue will be much more suited to Cork's style of play than the one they are leaving behind Leeside.
Cork come into this one with no points from their opening two games after going down to Kilkenny on the opening day of the season before struggling to their second loss on the bounce to Wexford last time out - in something that more resembled a scene from the Battle of the Somme than a hurling match.
Cork had been on an upward curve in recent years, but in 2018 their league form saw them just avoid relegation - a trend that seems to be repeating itself this time round, but the threat of the drop is gone for 2019, something that will be revisited sooner rather than later.
John Meyler's charges will be eager to put in a good display this time round to show the Cork supporters that there is something to be cheerful about in Rebel land, but Clare are definitely one of the most dangerous and improving sides out there at the moment and after losing two Munster Finals in the last two years to this weekend's hosts they will be eager to inflict as much pain as possible on Cork.
Cork will look to give their returning stars another chance to impress with Cormac Murphy, Aidan Walsh and Stephen McDonnell all in line for another crack at the whip.
Damien Cahalane will be another that will hope to again show his wares with Christopher Joyce and Mark Coleman sure to play some part in what will be a big day for the Rebel outfit.
The middle will likely see Bill Cooper and Murphy again take centre stage with Darragh Fitzgibbon probably in line for another weekend out of action after being part of Charleville's disappointing efforts in Croke Park last weekend.
Patrick Horgan will look to find his shooting credentials again after his least impressive display in sometime against Wexford.
Shane Kingston made a comeback the last day and will look to come on again this weekend, while at the back Tim O'Mahony deserves another go at centre-back after being one of Cork's best players so far this season.
The Newtownshandrum man played superbly well in the 2018 league at centre-back, but failed to secure a regular starting berth in the championship, but one or two more quality displays at number six in this league will make it hard for Meyler to look past a player that may well be the future for Cork at the heart of the Cork half-back line.
Alan Cadogan is another player that Cork fans are looking to get some game time and after being out of the game for a while through injury the Douglas man's return would be seen as a big plus for the home side.
Cork will take on a Clare side that come into this one on the back of an impressive one point win over Kilkenny in round 2. The Banner were put to the sword by Tipperary on the opening day of the competition, but showed they have plenty to offer when bagging their first points of the campaign last time out.
Players of the quality of Podge Collins, John Conlon and Colm Galvin will all likely put Cork's rear-guard under pressure while the talisman Peter Duggan as well as Diarmuid Ryan will be there to add to Clare's potent attack.
Ian Galvin, Shane Golden and Gary Cooney who has recently come in late on are all players to be watched while captain Tony Kelly will be the one that probably causes Cork he most headaches throughout the 70 minute + fixture. Kelly should be back from his one match suspension and will be up for a Cork side that have inflicted far too much pain on his side in recent times.
At the back, Donal Tuohy, Rory Hayes, David McInerney and Jack Browne provide a serious defensive pack and will refuse to show the home side any easy passage to goal in a game that will be played under lights this Saturday night.
This may be still 'just' the league, but Cork will be beginning to turn one eye towards the Munster Championship and their opener with Tipperary in early May so with that in mind Meyler, his backroom team and all those in red will be looking to get some credible results under their belts ASAP.
Cork need a win and will see this game at home to Clare as a real chance to secure their first points of the campaign.