Cats our barometer -- Walsh
WHEN Cork demolished Kilkenny in the second half of 2004 All-Ireland final they could never have imagined that in March 2010 they would still be waiting for their next victory over the black-and-amber.
Granted, the counties have only met four times since then, with Kilkenny winning them all. The last two meetings were bathed in a particular brand of misery for Cork, who were out-classed in the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final and humiliated in last April's league meeting.
Denis Walsh had just taken over as manager after a bitter strike and all he could do was share the pain as his squad took a 27-point hammering in front of 15,000 people at Nowlan Park.
Times have moved on and circumstances will be completely different when the counties clash at Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday, not least for Walsh, who went into this year's campaign on a level footing with every other manager.
"At least this year we have had time to work together. I had only a few sessions with the squad before we played Kilkenny last year. I didn't know them very well and they didn't know me. It's different now, more normal, more focused," said Walsh.
What's more, league take-off has been smooth and efficient, with wins over Offaly and Limerick hoisting Cork to the top of the table on scoring difference from Galway. Cork are heading for a big step-up in class against the reigning All-Ireland and league champions, who will be in mean mood after having their tails tweaked by Tipperary last Sunday.
"It's a good time to be getting them alright," said Walsh. "Having said that, it's important to see where we stand and how the work we have done so far measures up. We'll certainly need to step up a lot on how we performed against Offaly and Limerick.
"I've said all along that the league would be about making sure we were getting more and more competitive. We have started fairly well but we now have four very tough games coming up over the next four weekends. We'll know a lot more about ourselves when we've played those."