Former All-Ireland winning Cork captain Mark Landers wants the Rebels to take the Allianz Hurling League seriously but also accepts it’s the perfect opportunity to blood players who have flown under the radar.
Speaking on the Dalo Hurling Show Allianz League preview, Landers said: “I’m a big believer in the league. I don’t like giving any other county an advantage over you.
“It’s hard to believe it’s 22 years since Cork won a National League. Harnedy, Hoggy, Bill Cooper, no national league medal, and there’s only two serious medals a player can win — an All-Ireland and a league medal. It was a great medal to win in our day and I wouldn’t dismiss it at all.
“To me the league should be used to blood players as much as you can. There are players who need to get game-time. Rather than a player looking over his shoulder and getting the curly finger and saying I only got 20 minutes….
“I look at Dan Dooley last year from Bride Rovers. He played in the league match against Limerick, it was a game Cork won, he got half an hour against Tipp the week after, they were well beaten and he was never seen again. He’s gone off the panel now.
“There are players out there who are really unknown. It’s of benefit if they are playing beside better known, skilled players, but there are nuggets out there, players who should be given opportunities.
“The good under-21 and minor, I think we all know they’ll come through, the likes of the Sean Ógs, Seamus Hickeys, Joe Deane. But there’s a bunch of fellas there who unless you thrown them in you won’t know.
“Chris O’Leary, for example, who had a very good Fitzgibbon campaign last year for Cork. Niall O’Leary. Those kinds of fellas, Throw them into a National League game, put them on a renowned player and you’ll be able to test them.”
Last year’s Allianz League winners Limerick face All-Ireland champions Tipperary on Saturday in a mouth-watering opening fixture on Saturday evening.
Landers says: “Tipperary are the All-Ireland champions, they are playing at home. Automatically, I feel Liam Sheedy doesn’t want to be beaten at home, though it won’t be the end of the world either.
“You’ll be able to get over it, but being at home and being All-Ireland champions, that adds a small bit of spice.
“If you’re in the Tipp dressing room, you’re saying these guys turned us over in the Munster final last year, maybe we’ll do our best to try and win that.
“Limerick look like they are ahead of everyone else from the pre-season but that’s a very attractive match.”
Landers feels the appeal of evening league fixtures is such that the GAA should spread the games further across league weekends to maximise attendances and TV audiences.
“You look at the Premier League — 20 years ago, all the games were 3 o’clock on a Saturday. Now you have the Friday night game, the Saturday games, the Sunday games and the Monday night football.
“The GAA to me will have to follow the same format. Because a lot of people want to go and support their team and would go and watch neutral matches as well if you have the facility to play them over three days. It might be a Friday night or Saturday. But if we want to promote our own sport against other sports, it’s something we’ll have to look at.”
This week’s podcast addressed the number of players stepping away early from the inter-county scenes, with high-profile stars such as Philip Mahony, Peter Duggan, and Daniel Kearney not available for the upcoming season.
“It’s a different era. The player that’s there now, compared to when we played 20-25 years ago, the mentality is way different,” Landers said.
“It started with the club game with the players going away, and with the colleges with the J1 visas. Fifteen years ago you had non-GAA players going away on J1s, then suddenly you had one or two GAA players, then it spread.
“Now it is the norm that if you’re going to college you’ll go for three months in the summer County boards have opened the door, because they shut down their season for the summer. I think we’ve created that vacuum as well.
“But it never crossed my mind to go away for a year, I would have missed it too much to take a year out. You wouldn’t think in those terms. But now it is the norm and parents are agreeing with their children as well, saying ‘go on away’.”