Tuesday 21 May 2019

'There is a freshness about Aidan Walsh'

John Meyler has combed the county in search of fresh talent since last year's semi-final defeat

Cork manager John Meyler. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cork manager John Meyler. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Diarmuid Sheehan

John Meyler will lead his charges into one of the most important game's in Cork GAA history in recent years this Sunday as he goes in search of the perfect start to what promises to be one of the most hotly contested Munster Championships in years.

Coming into this competition Meyler feels his side have been up for it however results didn't go all their way.

"In the league we were competitive in three out of the six. Won three, lost three so from that point of view we were happy enough. We dug out one or two new players that will probably step up and play in the Munster Championship, we then did another bit of work before the boys went back to their clubs.

"We are back now and have been hard at it for the past few weeks and things have gone quite well so we are hoping to be ready for Sunday."

Preparing for a Munster Championship run is about much more than just the first match - there are a host of other factors that need to be attended to.

"You are trying to be competitive and trying to win matches and also trying to blood players and I have said before those are the key things. You can only hope then that the likes of Robbie O'Flynn, Tim O'Mahony and Shane Kingston will really step up to the plate again this year.

"Thank God, we have Alan Cadogan back and hopefully he can stay injury free. You are trying to get all those things in together to get your best team on the pitch for Sunday and hopefully have enough backup as well."

Questions about the what sides can take from a league that had no relegation are of little concern to Meyler and his squad.

"I don't think there was any holding back because there wasn't relegation or promotion - you know it is probably much easier to blood players. Bringing 19, 20 year olds with no experience except for minor and underage can be very challenging for those players so the league is important.

"Since I have been involved the strength and fitness levels have gone up dramatically so it is really competitive so as I said you are trying to find those players, that is what every county is doing [in the league] and hopefully we have found one or two."

Having a full squad is hugely important to Meyler and none are more important that Seamus Harnedy - the lifting of his suspension has delighted the manager.

"We are grateful to the GAA in Croke Park and the County Board for their help as well. It is great to have Harnedy back, having your best players available is what you want and what you are really looking for - he is a top class Inter-County player and he is very important to us."

An injured Colm Spillane is a loss, but hopefully for his loss will give another the chance to shine.

"At the moment, he [Spillane] is struggling, but hopefully that will give someone else a chance to step up and come in and that is really it."

One player that wont be making an appearance is the impressive Na Piarsaigh young star Darragh Conroy as he is otherwise engaged.

"He [Conroy] is doing his leaving cert" said Meyler.

"We spoke to him and spoke to his dad about it. You have to be fair to fellas that are 19 doing their leaving certs, that is their career ahead of them. The two Roches are the same. We looked at all those situations."

While some might feel the opportunity to shine is limited Meyler is clear that players have plenty opportunities to show their wares and force their way onto this Cork team.

"The shop window for players has been open since last year. You are looking at players in the Under 21 final and you are looking at players over the county championships last week. There are Fitzgibbon matches and Freshers' matches and Harty Cup matches and you are looking at all of those. The opportunities are there for players."

Meyler may not have been blessed with a huge influx of new stars but he did manage to get some older players to come back which is a big help to his chances of bringing success back to Leeside.

"There is a freshness about Aidan Walsh who has come in and definitely contributed in the national League and hopefully he will play a massive role in the Munster Championship as well.

"You look to strengthen the panel and look to try and find something different and Aidan brings something unique having a big man in the forward line so hopefully those guys that came in can contribute.

"It's [going with a big man up front] not a different approach. I just wanted him in the panel three years ago, but I just couldn't get him and now I got him. Last year he was playing football so this year he is available and this year he has played his part in the league and he was influential.

"This time last year Tim [O'Mahony] was going really well and then he broke his elbow in a club match against Kanturk in Charleville. This year he has played the five or six matches there [centre back] and sure we will see where he is placed against Tipperary but he has matured, it really is his third year in the panel but he has matured enormously over the last 12 months so he has a huge role to play for us."

While all eyes will be on Cork this weekend there will be more than the occasional glance at how the pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but as of now Meyler is happy with what he sees.

"Well, It is looking green," he laughs.

"I am not a horticulturist, but look the County Board have put the resources into it and please God that won't be the conversation after the game - hopefully ye (the press) will be talking about the hurling not the pitch.

"The lads are familiar with the pitch. We trained a lot there last year before the Munster Final and the All Ireland semi-final and this year whilst not training on the pitch the lads have been down there in the gym and on the 4G pitch so the environs would be the same for all."

While additions to the squad have attracted much of the attention the introduction of Doug Howlett off it has also been something to ponder.

"Look, he is a fantastic sportsman, brings a wealth of experience in terms of performance at the higher level. He is very much hands on and hopefully he can bring all that to the table - we are delighted with him and the lads are delighted with him.

"It's about performing. It's about helping the lads deal with going out in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in front of 40,000 people against Tipperary with a new management - it's about all that.

"It is going to be really competitive. He has been there and so have a lot of the players to be fair, but it is about bringing in somebody to allay their fears and that is really it."