Cork senior hurling manager John Meyler is looking forward to his side’s Munster championship opener in Pairc Ui Chaoimh — and hoping the post-match conversation won’t be about the playing surface.
When Cork played Wexford in the NHL the pitch cut up badly and remedial work has continued on the surface since, with no games played there.
“It’s looking green,” said Meyler of the pitch yesterday. “I’m not a horticulturist or whatever, but the county board has put the resources into it, and hopefully that won’t be the conversation after the game - hopefully you’ll be talking about the hurling as distinct from the match against Wexford way back. That has to be right.
“After the Rod Stewart concert I think they’re closing it and resurfacing it, and please God it’ll be fine.”
Meyler didn’t think the Cork players were at a disadvantage by not playing there for the last few months. “They are familiar (with the venue), we would have trained there a lot last year before the Munster final and into the All-Ireland.
“We’re aware of that, and even when we weren’t training on the pitch we would have been down there in the gym and on the 4G pitch.
The environment would have been the same, but you cross the white line and that’s it.
Meyler was happy that Seamus Harnedy, red-carded against Tipperary in the league, would be eligible to play in the championship: “We’re grateful to the GAA, to Croke Park, and the Cork County Board for their help as well.
“It’s great to have Harnedy back - to have your best players back, that’s what you’re looking for. He’s a top class inter-county player and he’s vital to us.”
The player himself echoed Meyler yesterday.
“It was hanging over my head there for a month,” said Harnedy, “But I was the first to put my hand up and accept I did wrong. I’m just delighted now to be freed up to play in the first round of the championship.”
It’s good news for Meyler, who must plan without injured defender Colm Spillane, and who ruled out a role for teenage star Daire Connery ahead of the latter’s exams.
“He’s (Spillane) struggling at the moment but that gives an opportunity to another player.
“Connery is doing the Leaving Cert, We’ve spoken to him, we’ve spoken to his Dad - you have to be fair to guys who are 19 and doing their Leaving Cert. The two Roches are in the same situation and we’ve looked at them.”
One young player who has bedded into the team is Tim O’Mahony of Newtownshandrum. “This time last year he was flying it and then he broke his elbow in a club match against Kanturk in Charleville. He’s played five or six games there (centre-back) now so we’ll see where he’s placed against Tipperary.
“He has matured, it’s his third year on the panel and now he’s matured he has a huge role to play on the panel.”
So has former All Black Doug Howlett, who is helping Cork as a performance coach.
“He’s a fantastic sportsman and brings a wealth of experience in terms of performance at the higher level,” said Meyler “He’s very much hands-on, and we’d hope he’ll bring that to the table. We’re delighted with him and the lads are delighted with him.
“He’s different to Gary Keegan. It’s about performing, and I spoke to him during the week about going into Newlands to play South Africa in front of 80,000 people - what’s coming at you, knowing what’s coming at you against Tipperary in Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Sunday week the there’s 40,000 people there.
“Tipperary have a new management, it’s going to be really competitive - a lot of the players have been there as well, in fairness, but it’s about allaying their fears. It’s about performing at that level.”
Meyler said it was “massively” important to learn from other sports.
“You look at the likes of Barcelona and Manchester City, they way they move the ball - a lot of hurling is like that at the moment, working the ball and getting it back in high-pressure situations.
“You learn from sports like the NFL in terms of set plays and so on. You have to keep yourself open to the various sports around the place.”