They might be the reigning All-Ireland senior football champions and back-to-back Allianz Football League winners, but nobody in the Cork side is taking winning for granted.
Rebels attacker Paul Kerrigan admits that one of the positive by-products of the claiming of Sam Maguire last September was an increase in confidence and self-belief, something that was clearly evident in their impressive comeback against Dublin in the league final last month.
Self-confidence is one thing, but Kerrigan is keen to point out that line between that and arrogance is not crossed.
“I suppose guys are fairly confident now in the team’s ability and the panel’s ability that we’re a fairly good team and we can match anyone,” he says.
“In fairness, in our panel there’ll never be overconfidence or cockiness, and that’s fantastic.
“We’ve lost more big games than anyone, so you can’t rest on your laurels and you can’t take winning for granted.”
While the victory against Dublin underlined Cork’s quality and strength in depth, Kerrigan himself was unable to play as big a role as he would have like, succumbing to hamstring injury in the first half. He does not expect to keep him out of action, however.
“I hurt it the week coming up to the league final playing with the club, Nemo, I kind of strained it a small bit and it tightened up. I rested it and got a bit of physio work done ahead of the league final but I knew after 20, 25 minutes it wasn’t right, I couldn’t really go flat out.
“I didn’t hurt it any further so I’ve just been doing a bit of running and getting physio over the last two weeks, hopefully I’ll be right for the club game at the weekend.”
While it was disappointing to miss out on the excellent second-half fightback, when Conor Counihan’s side overturned an eight-point deficit, Kerrigan was happy for his colleagues.
“I knew I was going to be starting from the Thursday night and I was really focused for the game,” he says.
“I rarely get injured and it’s frustrating when you do get injured on such a big day, but I suppose you have to look at the bigger picture too, we had guys come in and it’s all about the team winning, I know I was injured after the game but I was as happy as anyone, I was delighted for the younger fellas who came on and proved themselves, and for Shieldsy [Michael Shields] as captain, you have to look at the positives as well.”
One of the main positives is that the league was secured with many of the heroes of last September marked absent.
“Absolutely, if you look at the starting 15 for the All-Ireland final compared to the team that finished on the field against Dublin, it’s pretty amazing,” Kerrigan says.
“It shows the quality of player that’s there at the moment and the competition for places is quite strong too, it can only bode well for Cork football.”
In that regard, getting injured can mean a longer-than-wished-for spell on the sidelines, as regaining one’s place is a difficult task.
“There are plenty of younger fellas who have come onto the panel this year and they’re pushing hard, we had a good U21 team, so maybe a couple of more of them might come on,” Kerrigan says.
“Then there are the older players, like [Graham] Canty, Nicky [Nicholas Murphy], Lynchie [Anthony Lynch] and Quirkie [Alan Quirke] all coming back too, so you are looking over your shoulder and that’s why you have to make sure to take care of yourself and not get injured.”
Next on the horizon for Cork is a Munster championship opener with Clare on May 22 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with Kerrigan knowing that competition for places will be strong.
“We know that the Clare game is going to be another step up from the Dublin match, it’s championship at the end of the day, it’s where it all kicks off.
“I suppose we’re lucky enough to have them down the Páirc, which is a big advantage for us, the panels this year have been cut to 26 so guys are going to be going all-out to make the panel, never mind the team.”
Should Cork overcome Clare, another home tie, against Waterford awaits, theoretically giving an easy passage to a Munster final with Kerry. Kerrigan is not looking at things in such a simple fashion, though.
“Well you just want to get on the team for the Clare game, and hopefully if you win there you’d keep your place for the Waterford game, so you have to take it one at a game,” he says.
“It’s probably out there externally that it’ll be Cork and Kerry in Killarney, but we won’t be looking at that, to be honest.”