Fitzgibbon a doubt for Cork’s league campaign

Cork hurling manager John Meyler has suggested All-Star midfielder Darragh Fitzgibbon could sit out the 2019 Allianz League, should Charleville reach the All-Ireland intermediate club decider.

Fitzgibbon was instrumental in Charleville’s come-from-behind Munster club IHC final win over Feakle last month, with their All-Ireland semi-final, against Kilkenny’s Graigue-Ballycallan, scheduled for the weekend of January 19/20.

The All-Ireland decider is pencilled in for February 9/10 and were Charleville to secure passage to the concluding afternoon of action, Meyler has said there is a possibility Fitzgibbon may be excused from league duty, given his hectic season to date.

The 21-year old lined out for UCC, Cork (U21 and senior), and Charleville (U21 and intermediate) this year, with Meyler insisting that Fitzgibbon “will need a rest” when Charleville’s intermediate campaign comes to an end.

“Darragh only finished for the year there last week. If Charleville get to an All-Ireland final, he probably won’t be available for the league for us because he’ll need a rest,” the Cork manager speculated.

Describing Cork’s 2018 as a “success”, Meyler expects 2019 to be “10 times harder because it will be more competitive and everyone is looking for their pound of flesh”.

Cork begin the new season on Saturday, December 29, with an away fixture against Clare (Cusack Park, 2pm) in the opening round of the Munster Senior Hurling League.

Those who can expect to see game-time during the pre-season competition include new recruits Conor Cahalane, Michael O’Halloran, David Lowney, Ger Collins, Ger Millerick, and Robert Downey. Collins, Cahalane, Lowney, and Millerick were present inside the whitewash during the county’s All-Ireland U21 final defeat to Tipperary at the end of August.

Accepting there is a need for the panel to be strengthened, Meyler is pleased to have Aidan Walsh and Stephen McDonnell back in the fold.

“Stephen was captain there in 2016/17. It is great to have him back and have him focused on 2019. He brings a massive experience to it.

“I wanted Aidan before but couldn’t get him because he was playing football. He is a tremendous athlete. He is a huge boost, a huge addition.”

Meyler added: “We looked at the whole of 2018, dissected it, and we saw what we needed and required. We need to strengthen the panel and we need to strengthen the team.

We start on Sunday three weeks against Clare. That’s important to blood players and give them a bit of game-time, see how they are. That’ll put the emphasis on the league against Kilkenny at the end of January. All of those are little steps along the way. We are building slowly. It will just take another couple of steps.

Casting an eye to next summer, the county’s burning ambition to reach the All-Ireland final will not take focus from their three-in-a-row Munster bid. “We’re not going to throw away a Munster championship simply because we want to get into an All-Ireland quarter-final, that’s silly. We’ll try to win every game and try reap benefits from every game. You want to be one of those three that come out of the Munster championship. That’s really it.”

Cloughduv beat Fermoy 1-18 to 3-10 in the Corkl Under 21 A Hurling Championship semi-final,at Páirc uí Rinn last night.

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