Chance for players to step up, says Hayes

In inter-county hurling, the intermediate grade serves two purposes. There is of course the provincial and All-Ireland championships and the chance to win medals in a county jersey.

Chance  for players  to  step up, says Hayes

Beyond that though, it also acts as a finishing school for those players considered worthy of a shot at senior and that is something Cork have benefited from in the recent past.

The Rebels take on Wexford at Nowlan Park in tomorrow’s All-Ireland final (3pm) and manager Liam Hayes believes the stars of the side can push on like others before them.

“Last year, Bill Cooper, Brian Lawton and Mark Ellis were with us,” he said, “Séamus Harnedy was there the year before.

“These lads are after making the step up and there’s nothing stopping a few guys with us this year from doing the exact same. They can put up their hands and let the senior selectors look at them and then if they’re good enough during the league it’s an opportunity to get the foot in the door.”

Cork come into the game having beaten Waterford, Clare and Tipperary to claim Munster, while Galway were accounted for in the All-Ireland semi-final a fortnight ago. The spirit in the camp is high, but Hayes is keen to keep feet on the ground.

“There’s always pressure going into an All-Ireland final,” he said, “but these players are around long enough to handle that.

“On the other side, it’s just another game, a game you have to win. If they want to prove themselves as champions, they have to win this.

“The team are very familiar now with one another, at this stage there can be no excuses for them. Wexford are a formidable side, I went to see them against Kilkenny and they made them look ordinary.

“They were 1-4 to no score up after seven minutes, you don’t do that to a Kilkenny team. We can’t rest on our laurels, we have to meet them head-on and take the game to them.”

Should changes on the hoof be required, the team are capable of that too, though.

“Galway caused us problems in the first half, they upset the way our game plan works,” Hayes said.

“We assessed that at half-time and when we did, the players came together, they pulled it out of the fire. We changed our game plan and they were able to adapt to that. Hopefully, whatever Wexford throw at us I’m sure our lads will be able to adapt and it’s just a matter of digging out a result after that.”

Since the campaign has begun, Cork have lost Jamie Wall and Mark Kennefick to illness and injury. Hayes doesn’t attempt to downplay the loss, but feels that there is sufficient depth within the panel.

“They’re too major losses to us,” he said. “Jamie was flying in the Munster final and Mark had been excellent too earlier on in the year, he’d have been considered for starting on Saturday.

“Mark loses out but Barry Lawton comes in after missing out through injury earlier.

“That’s the way inter-county panels go.”

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