It started with a conversation over lunch. Ronan Curran and John Meyler would regularly meet up for a catch up when, towards the end of last year, the Cork manager posed his St Finbarr’s club-mate and the sales manager of Mycro Sportswear a question.
“He asked me is there any ball out there to improve first touch and reaction times. At the time, there weren’t many good ones so we went away and developed one without rims that would be a bit faster than any of the normal balls and you don’t have to warm them up either. It took a few months but we got one now and it’s flying out the doors.
“There’s fierce demand for them — we can hardly keep them in stock.”
Under Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s South Stand on Wednesday night, there the Cork panel were to a man using the Mycro Speed Ball against the concrete walls.
Hailed as the “fastest wall ball in the world”, it’s made of plastic but has a spongy feel when struck. Because it has no rims, the ball returns more quickly and consistently than a regular sliotar. It is by no means intended to be a replacement for the real thing but Curran is glad to help the Cork cause in some way.
As manager of St Finbarrs, the likes of the Cahalane brothers are his main priority when he watches the team now but as a man who proudly filled the No. 6 jersey for several seasons the progress of Tim O’Mahony at centre-back catches his eye too.
“He’s doing very well at the moment. He’s a big, strong lad, plenty of hurling in him and he played all of the league campaign last year and it stood to him because at the start I thought he was raw but he got better as the year went on and then unfortunately he got injured.
Like most, the three-time All-Star is wary of coming to conclusions from the league, particularly of Tipperary who visit on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t pay too much attention to the league because Tipperary are bottom at the moment and yet in all their games there have only been a couple of points or so in the difference and a couple of them could have gone either way.”
However, he regards Cork as being a more potent group this year.
“Looking at where hurling is now, it’s really wide open and six or seven teams could win the All-Ireland.
“Cork could have won it last year and Galway will come back strong. It’s a great time for hurling.
“Cork are in a good place, I think, and I think they’re stronger than last year with Tim added to it, Aidan Walsh showing well and Alan Cadogan is brilliant and is fit again.
“The thing thrown at Cork last year was the panel wasn’t really that strong but they seem to have another few guys to keep things competitive and training sharp. You need (Seamus) Harnedy going well and to bring Lehane more into the game with the obvious talent he has. I don’t see Cork being that far away.”
Winning Munster mightn’t have helped Cork all that much thereafter in the last two Championships but Curran envisages Meyler going all out for it again largely because of the away games in Limerick and Ennis.
“To be fair, I still wouldn’t change anything Cork did in Munster the last couple of years because they should have won against Limerick in Croke Park last year and closed that out (in the All-Ireland semi-final). That wasn’t anything to do with preparation but a couple of injuries going against them. (Nickie) Quaid made that great save too. The year before against Waterford, we were probably the better team up to the sending off. Nothing needs to be changed drastically.”