Cunningham frustrated by absence of third-level players

Cork selector Ger Cunningham is frustrated by the absence of third-level players from the county’s Waterford Crystal Cup hurling squad. The Rebels begin competitive life under the guidance of Jimmy Barry-Murphy in that competition next Saturday with a home quarter-final clash against Kerry at Páirc Uí Rinn.

But Cunningham estimates Cork will be without up to a dozen players for the competition, a number of top players committed to their various colleges in the Fitzgibbon Cup, which begins this afternoon.

UCC pair William Egan and Jamie Nagle are just two of the Cork players involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup, as well as Cork IT trio Stephen McDonnell, Lorcan McLoughlin and Paudie O’Sullivan.

Cunningham reflected: “It’s frustrating from our point of view trying to start and prepare for the League and a third of our guys are not available to play. But Jimmy was happy to co-operate with the colleges and we have no issue letting them play with them in preparation for the Fitzgibbon Cup.

“And, in the Fitzgibbon, they are playing at a level which is more advanced in their training, fitness and hurling than some of the other fellas would be. It’s a very high level of competition and with matches for the next couple of weeks, it gives us the chance to see those players in action in a competitive environment.”

But the problem for Cork is that former goalkeeping great Cunningham recognises the need to hit the ground running against Waterford on February 25, with just five games on offer in Division 1A.

He said: “Every game will be competitive but it doesn’t leave a huge amount of games from the point of view of experimentation. That’s a balancing act – looking at what you have and introducing players as well to give them exposure. That’s the challenge and at the same time trying to win those games because a good League run is important from a Cork point of view.”

Cunningham also lamented Cork’s recent lack of underage success. The Rebels haven’t won an All-Ireland minor hurling crown since 2001 and the county’s last U21 success was achieved back in 1998. Cunningham reflected: “You’d like to be picking players on the back of winning silverware at minor and U21.”

Cunningham, sports sponsorship manager Bord Gáis Energy, was on hand yesterday as the company confirmed sponsorship of the 2012 Ladies Football National Leagues, the final year in the current agreement.

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