While official confirmation had yet to arrive last night, it was believed that Bishopstown pair Shane O’Neill and Pa Cronin, Stephen Moylan of Douglas, Cloyne’s Paudie O’Sullivan and Cian McCarthy of Sars had been left off the squad which will be used by the Rebels going forward to the championship.
It was reported O’Sullivan had told management last week he wished to take time off to focus on his club and get his hunger back.
Four of the five players featured across the 2013 All-Ireland hurling final and replay, while O’Sullivan would have but for a broken leg sustained that spring.
However, none were regulars as Cork laboured in the league this year, needing a win over Galway last Sunday to preserve their Division 1A status.
Cork face Tipperary in the Munster SHC in Thurles at the end of May and Fitzgerald feels that this call signals a change of tack from manager Kieran Kingston and his selectors.
“It’s a ruthless call, certainly,” he said, “and you’d feel sorry for the players, who have given great service.
“After the league campaign, the management probably felt they had the licence to make a decision like that but then you’d say those players mightn’t have played worse than any other.
“It’s probably part of a change of approach and you’d have to trust the management have made the decision they feel best serves Cork hurling.”
Former skippers O’Neill and Cronin both established themselves as first-teamers in the 2007 championship season, and their absence means that goalkeeper Anthony Nash is now undisputed as the longest-serving panel member.
O’Neill won an All-Ireland medal as a non-playing member of the 2005 squad and his departure means there are no senior Celtic Crosses left on the panel.
Fitzgerald feels the hard calls made point to a longer-term view.
“It’s no consolation to the players involved,” he said, “but there’s no room for sentiment in the modern game. The management are probably looking to the future.
“Pace is such a vital asset nowadays too, that may have played a role.
“Those players have served Cork well but they have a lot of miles on the clock too and the younger players kept on the panel will be able to gain experience that should help them become assets to Cork too.”