Monday 16 July 2018

Young guns promise bright future but present in a little less certain

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Cork manager John Meyler has had a difficult start to his Cork senior hurling management career. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cork manager John Meyler has had a difficult start to his Cork senior hurling management career. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Well, after the buzz of last year many eyes in the hurling world were trained on Cork this year to see if last year's heroics were the sign of things to come rather than just one battle in a protracted war to get back to where the boys in red feel they should be.

Without wanting to spend too much time looking in reverse it is fair to say that the John Meyler reign has not hit the heights just yet - that said the loss to Kerry for the first time in over a century is hardly something to be shouting from the rooftops.

Cork started the league season perfectly, with a hard-fought win over Kilkenny in the spectacular surrounds of the redeveloped Páirc Uí Chaoimh however since then things have not exactly gone to plan for the Rebels losing out to Wexford, Clare and most recently Waterford - who now sit on the same points as Cork at the foot of the Division 1A table.

Pre-season hype aside, this was always going to be a tough season for Cork with a change of management and a terrific season behind them that many feel came a little too early for this young and must be said exciting side.

Cork are still in many people's eyes a little on the light side which opens them up to being bullied in certain quarters on the pitch. The change in the game over the years has leaned towards bigger, more physical specimens however Cork have often had their greatest successes with nifty, hugely talented players rather than with overly powerful players (The Rock obviously excluded).

All that said, Cork do have some bite in certain quarters but the question of whether it will enough to see off a Tipperary side that are getting better by the day is unclear.

Cork will need to show much more than they did against Waterford the last day out which was a day that saw many of the big names fail to make the impression required at this level.

Of course, relegation from 1A to 1B isn't a disaster, but it can hardly be described as the best preparation for the revamped hurling championship which is coming faster than many can fathom.

Cork really do need to be playing against the best, week in week out, if they are to progress in the way that Meyler and the Cork sporting public crave. Next weekend's fixture away to Tipperary is going to be difficult however a win really will turn their early season story from a potential negative to a definite positive.

Cork don't need to make the final to call this campaign a good one but they do need to avoid a potential relegation clash with Galway because at this stage it would be hard to see that one going the way of the Munster men.

The days of saying it is only the league are long gone.

High Point

Starting the National League campaign with a really good display against Kilkenny.

Life in Division 1A was never likely to be easy but Cork started well - continuing on from last year's dramatic improvement. Of course, everything was far from perfect but Cork did show that there is plenty to work on with new manager John Meyler happy to praise his charges.

Low Point

Easy target would be the pre-season loss to Kerry but we will stay clear of that one for now.

The four point losses to Wexford and Clare were disappointing but almost within the margin of error at this level however losing to a struggling Waterford, at home, the last day out by five points will be hard to fight back from. Cork are better than they showed against the Déise, but how much better will they be come crunch time?

Stand out player so far

Patrick Horgan joined the league team a little later than others, but has managed to pick up where he left off on the scoring stakes. 1-10 (0-9 frees) against Waterford the last day shows he has lost nothing in potency however he will need more from his attacking colleagues as the games get more serious.

Manager's performance

John Meyler by his own admission is obsessed with time management.

He said so at the start of the season after winning his first pre-season clash. His attention to detail is impressive and his ability to fit so much into his week is a lesson to us all, but the new manager hasn't quite got his side running to the same levels of efficiency just yet.

John has the small matter of improving his side to take up his free time while keeping a close nit dressing room intact and if he can do that he has a chance.

If he can't, well, then history will judge him harshly.

New Blood

Cork were praised last season for the manner with which they brought in a host of new talent.

Players like Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman, Luke Meade, Dean Brosnan, Colm Spillane, Michael Spillane, and Darragh Fitzgibbon were all looking to become the names for the future and this season Meyler has managed to call upon Seán O'Donoghue, Tim O'Mahony and Robbie O'Flynn - with all having been given their chance to shine ahead of the summer fare.

While it is always great to bring in the new, Cork would be wise not to disregard too many old heads before the new crop have settled in.

Long term view

It really is a hard one to call right now.

Cork are still in transition and may well be in that state of flux for the foreseeable future. Changing manager, style and in some cases personnel is never easy, but Cork have now one of the youngest panels around - which on the face of it has to be a good thing.

The league will sort itself out in the next few weeks but after that there is significant improvement required if this side are to make it anywhere close to Croke Park.