Cork football selector Seán Hayes believes that the returning Ciarán Sheehan will bring his influence to bear on and off the field.
The Rebels’ McGrath Cup campaign begins with a trip to Tralee to face Kerry on Sunday (2pm). Sheehan is back on the Cork panel after featuring as Éire Óg won the county premier IFC title in the autumn and Hayes is looking forward to the 2010 All-Ireland medallist’s return.
“Ciarán brings a great attitude and an extra dimension to it,” Hayes says.
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“With what he picked up in Australia, as well as being a good footballer he’s a good leader as well.
“It’s great to have him back.”
While the pre-season competition is being used to assess potential additions to the squad, Cork have the upcoming Allianz FL Division 3 campaign – which begins against Offaly on January 25 – in mind too.
“Every year, when you’re finished you go out and watch the county championship matches to see if there’s anyone you might have missed,” Hayes says.
“We have brought a few of them in but will they make the panel? We have to cut it down fairly soon, by January we have to nominate a league panel.
“Some of the U20s can go back for the U20 championship and we can watch them in February and March and see where they are in April, when we’re finalising our championship panel.
“We only have the Kerry match and the Tipp match and hopefully one more if we get to the final.
“Then we’re into the national league against Offaly, so you have to look at it both ways, you want to start framing your team and making sure you’re bringing the right fellas with you.
“Offaly are already after two O’Byrne Cup games and they’re just the first team, we’ve six more teams to worry about as well.”
After Kerry, Cork take on Tipperary in Mallow on January 2 and if they win their group they will reach the final. It’s likely that some of the heroes from the 2019 All-Ireland U20 win will feature.
“You’d imagine the likes of Damien Gore, Cathal O’Mahony, Colm O’Callaghan, Maurice Shanley has been impressive,” Hayes says.
“Will the make the panel? I don’t know, but these kind of guys, Seán Meehan, Peter O’Driscoll, have impressed. They’ve all been out training with us since we’ve started and they’ve done well.
“The whole squad have been back since the start of December. Obviously, the Nemo lads aren’t back yet, hopefully they’ll be gone another month, but bit by bit everyone else was back with us as championships finished.
“The way we’re looking at it is that progress was made last year but you can’t rest on that, you have to build on it. Obviously, for 2020 getting out of Division 3 is an important goal for us and getting back into the Super 8s and doing better.
“You have to take it one step at a time. Kerry will be a good game. I know it’s probably mainly their U20s and a few senior fellas because their first team were on holidays but we won’t worry about that.
“We just have to worry about our own team and getting ready for the league. We have Tipp the following Thursday night and if we qualify, we have a final the following week so they’re our three matches.”
On the sideline, former Kildare manager Cian O’Neill – who has been involved with Kerry and Mayo footballers and Tipperary hurlers previously – is on board and Hayes welcomes his arrival.
“Cian has taken over the coaching from Eddie Kirwan and he has added to it as well,” he says.
“The boys have bought in to what he’s trying to do and training has been very good so far.
“The thing is that you can’t leave it on the training pitch, you have to bring it to the football pitch, so we’ll see how it goes in January.”