Wednesday 20 February 2019

Cooper content Cork can learn from Limerick loss

Cork's Bill Cooper. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cork's Bill Cooper. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The absence of a relegation trapdoor from Division 1A of the hurling league will not dilute its competitiveness, Cork midfielder Bill Cooper believes.

The league format will undergo more change for 2020 with Division 1 reverting back to six-team groups of relatively equal strength, in preference to the merit-based system that 1A and 1B currently provides.

But Cooper feels the inherent nature of hurlers doesn't allow them to hold back in a competitive sphere and that building momentum could be crucial.

"We learned the hard way a few years ago, not having great form going though the league, it's very hard to turn it around," said the Youghal man, speaking at the launch of the Allianz Hurling League in Croke Park.

"Last year we struggled through the league and we were lucky enough to turn it around.

"We want to be more consistent than last year."

Cooper admits that Cork's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Limerick last July still grates away at him and pops into his head every so often but it's something they will take a lot from.

"It was tough. It all comes down to fine margins. We weathered tough storms through the Munster campaign, against Clare in the first half of the Munster final, and against Tipperary at the start of the second half.

"We are a young group and that can only stand to us.

"It was a couple of tough weeks, but that's the beauty of it, there can only be one winner, ultimately, and the lows make the highs even better if you are lucky enough to win things."

They were still Munster champions for the second successive year and Cooper sees value in the currency of provincial silverware, despite being beaten by the team that finished third behind them in the province.

Only two Munster champions, Tipperary in 2011 and 2016, in this decade have gone on to win their subsequent All-Ireland semi-final.

"It shows the competition in Munster but if you ask anyone at the start of the campaign, they all want to win Munster, it's very competitive, as you saw the last few years, and I don't think anyone will turn up their nose.

"Obviously the record of Munster champions not going on to win the All-Ireland is there for everyone to see, but I don't think it takes from the Munster championship," said Cooper.

Cooper accepts that management may try to deepen their squad after failing to match Limerick in reserve the longer last year's semi-final went on, but for him his greatest challenge is to hold on to one of the midfield berths where he has built a good partnership with Darragh Fitzgibbon.

Fitzgibbon is likely to miss the opening league match against Kilkenny in Nowlan Park on Sunday while defender Colm Spillane is also set to be absent because of injury.

Irish Independent

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