Legendary Cork goalkeeper and now head coach Ger Cunningham said he would have loved the current Munster championship format to have been in place during his playing career.
Cunningham was Cork goalkeeper for almost two decades and while he won three All-Ireland medals in that time, he feels there were years when they could have added to that tally had they got a second chance.
The 1993 campaign is one that he really regrets not getting a second crack at or, better still, if it was run off on the round-robin system that is going to be used for a third season next summer in Munster and Leinster.
“There is no doubt, this format is great. When you talk to the players there now, they love it. They love the games and the profile of the games. Whereas in the past, I remember in the early 90s we had good teams and you might go up against a team who might catch you on a bad day and you were gone.”
Cork lifted the 1993 league after two replays against Wexford and having been runners-up to Kilkenny the previous September, the Rebels were strongly fancied for All-Ireland glory. But their championship campaign ended at the first hurdle when Clare, still a few years short of exploding under Ger Loughnane, stunned them in Gaelic Grounds by 2-7 to 0-10 and that was the end of Cork’s season.
“That year 1993, above all, stands out. Who knows what might have happened had there been a backdoor or the current system?
“We might not have done it but I’ve often thought we would have made the most of the second chance that year.
“We won the league after all, three matches with Wexford and then we went down to play Clare and they caught us in the Gaelic Grounds.
“Again, something like that where you could have had a backdoor to regroup and all that would have been lovely. That said, the second chance or the current format doesn’t make it any easier. The format is good but there are very tough matches and you have to perform in them,” said the four-time All-Star.
He had no hesitation coming on board when Kieran Kingston was appointed manager and is hopeful the talent is there for Cork to thrive.
“I have known Kieran a long time, would have worked with him back in 2012 and 2013 when Jimmy (Barry-Murphy) was manager, we worked together as selectors. I would be friendly with him.
When I met him and he asked me to come in it didn’t take too long really. He painted a good picture in the context we would work well together, that is a big part of it, the backroom team would be guys who would help each other.
“The last two years we have been involved in the two Bord Gáis Energy U-20 finals. You are looking at players from that ilk and that couple of years to try and make the step up and make the grade. It is all small margins. Obviously, there was the bounce with Liam Sheedy coming in last year, it had a big effect on the whole scenario in Tipperary.
“Hopefully Kieran Kingston might get that bounce back as well.”
The new era has already begun with victory over Kerry in the Co-op Superstores Munster Hurling League and they will have a crack at Liam Cahill’s Waterford next on in Dungarvan but with the Allianz League coming quickly down the tracks there is little time to phase lads in.
“Our biggest challenge, this year with the way it is falling for us, is that we we have 20 guys playing Fitzgibbon Cup between January 12 and February 12. That is going to be a very big challenge for us to manage that.
“We have two league games and if UCC, who have 14 of our squad, get to the final they are going to play five games. Trying to balance those five games will be tricky but that’s what will have to be done,” added Cunningham.