O'Grady and his opposite number, Pad Joe Whelahan took a notebook of positives from Saturday's challenge in Fermoy as Cork prepare for their opening Allianz League date with Limerick on February 23, and Birr finalise preparations for the All Ireland Club SHC semi-final a week earlier.
"This was a nice workout for us," said O'Grady. "All we were looking for was some decent hurling practice and we certainly got that", he said. "The conditions were not ideal but having said that I couldn't fault the players for effort. Their commitment was excellent and augurs well for the season. We have close to two teams on the go at the moment with the intention to give every player an opportunity show what he can do.
"We'll have to cut down the panel shortly, and every one of the players involved knows there are places to be won on that panel, hence the competitive edge you saw to today's game. Every player wanted to impress. Mark Prendergast at left corner back enhanced his chances with a polished performance, while his full-back colleagues Brian Murphy and Michael Fitzgerald did nothing wrong. Ronan Curran at centre back was excellent while Eoin Fitzgerald and Setanta Ó hAilpín impressed in the forward line. Jerry O'Connor, Joe Deane and Alan Browne slipped over some excellent points and are shaping up well. Overall it was a fine display by the home side but according to O'Grady, there is still some way to go before they are the complete article. A feature of Cork's final tally was that all but six points came from play, while Birr scored 10 of their points from frees.
Birr coach Pa Joe Whelehan said he was delighted with the workout: "It's an honour to play a county like Cork and being beaten by seven points is no disgrace.
"It was the ideal preparation for us. Cork had a couple of excellent hurlers out there today and they gave our defence a testing time. Brian Whelehan showed his class at centre back; his brother Barry and Johnny Pilkington shaded the midfield exchanges, but their attack was well held with only Simon Whelehan and Gary Hannify posing any real threat. There was little between the sides in the opening quarter, but when a very lively Setanta Ó hAilpín billowed the Birr net in the 20th minute it helped his side to an interval lead of 1-13 to 1-7, Rory Hannify scoring the visitor's goal. Cork maintained their grip on the change-over and a blistering goal by Eoin Fitzgerald in the 42nd minute consolidated their position Scorers Cork: J. Deane 0-7 (0-4 frees); S. Ó hAilpín 1-2; E. Fitzgerald 1-1; G. O'Connor, A. Browne 0-3 each; M. Landers 0-2 (0-1 free, 0-1 65); M. Morrissey, B. O'Connor, N. McCarthy 0-1 each.
Birr: S. Whelehan 0-12 (0-10 frees); R. Hannify 1-0; G. Hannify 0-3; B. Whelehan
0-2 (frees); D. Pilkington 0-2.
CORK: D. Óg Cusack (Cloyne); B. Murphy (Bride Rovers), M. Fitzgerald (St. Catherines), M. Prendergast (Na Piarsaigh); D. Barrett (Cobh), R. Curran (St. Finbarrs), S. Óg Ó hAilpín (Na Piarsaigh); M. O'Connell (Midleton), M. Landers (Killeagh); G. O'Connor (Newtownshandrum), M. Morrissey (do.), E. Fitzgerald (Castlelyons); S. Ó hAilpín (Na Piarsaigh), J. Deane (Killeagh), A. Browne (Blackrock).
Subs used: Ben O'Connor, Wayne Sherlock, Pat Mulcahy, Niall McCarthy, Jason Barrett, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, Kieran Murphy.
BIRR: B. Mullins; G. Cahill, J. Errity, JP O'Meara; D. Franks, Brian Whelahan, N. Claffey; Barry Whelahan, J. Pilkington; D. Pilkington, G. Hannify, R. Hanniffy; P. Molloy, L. Power, S. Whelahan.
Referee: D. O'Farrell.