A historic championship exit at the hands of Wexford last year could be traced to a poor league — Cork finished bottom of Division 1A having lost all five matches. There was brief respite in a relegation final win but come championship, Cork’s tactical mishmash and lack of depth condemned them. Kingston will have appreciated Cork looked confused, as they did the season before under Jimmy Barry-Murphy. Nobody expects miracles, but the intensity they brought in Páirc Uí Rinn against Kilkenny last March is what supporters will expect against Clare on home turf Sunday, and in every game this spring. The lack of bite in Cork’s play has been sorely at odds with what the top four have been providing.
Galway’s good summer compensated for a dismal spring but there won’t be forgiveness if they fail to make a quick return to Division 1A. Even without their St Thomas contingent for the opening rounds — plus Joe Canning and the terrific Daithí Burke — Galway are promotion favourites and Donoghue should embrace the expectation as a sign that he is doing something right. By the end of last year, he had found the spine of his team and, once again, it was Galway who shaped Tipperary into All-Ireland champions, though they won’t take any comfort from that. Their time in the second tier must be short if they are to truly confirm their All-Ireland credentials. Don’t be surprised if they emulate Waterford and Clare in claiming top league honours from Division 1B.
It’s a little unusual for a manager ahead of his third season to embark on a rebuilding process. Then again, Waterford and Tipperary have provided Ger Cunningham with proof that youth can be trusted. In Dublin’s case, there is perhaps too much emphasis on up-and-comers and Cunningham is hamstrung by the unavailability of his Cuala players. Liam Rushe is a totemic figure but there are not enough around him for most supporters’ liking and so Cunningham will have to engineer some. He hardly inherited a poisoned chalice from Anthony Daly but has found himself being compared constantly with the gregarious Clareman who took the capital to his heart in his time there. Everyone appreciated that Cunningham had to make his own mark but taking a sledgehammer to the team Dalo built maybe wasn’t the wisest choice. Survival in 1A is all that matters.