Options, options, options.
For all the pieties to be heard after NHL games, managers are keeping an eye out all the time for options.
After Tipperary’s narrow defeat to Cork, for instance, Liam Sheedy was unequivocal about what he was looking for in the league: options for the summer, players to put their hands up for consideration in the championship.
(Nobody can accuse Sheedy of inconsistency: before Christmas he was saying the same in the Co-Op Superstores SHL.) Very well: what have managers discovered so far?
Take Sheedy’s own side. Forwards such as Jake Morris and Mark Kehoe have been on the radar since last year, but against Limerick and Cork, Paddy Cadell has caught the eye this year.
True, Cadell had to be withdrawn early against Cork but he already had two points in the bag at that stage.
Sheedy cited a niggly back afterwards as the reason for the substitution, but was he keeping a potential summer weapon under wraps also?
Cadell lined out for UCC in last Wednesday’s Fitzgibbon Cup win over IT Carlow, where one of his teammates was Robert Downey of Cork.
The Glen Rovers man caught the eye in the centre of the Rebel defence against Tipperary, but at 20 is he too young to be considered for the number 3 or 6 jersey? Or at the moment is he just . . . an option?
The early running is being made by 2018 All-Ireland champions Limerick, who look to have a deeper panel than every other team. The man who turned their league clash with Tipperary a few weeks ago was Will O’Donoghue, who energised their midfield and drove them to victory.
An option doesn’t have to be a total newcomer: O’Donoghue came on late in the All-Ireland final win and has been a panellist for three seasons, but on the evidence so far he’s forcing his way into manager John Kiely’s starting fifteen.
Limerick’s neighbours have also turned up an option or two. New Clare manager Brian Lohan has made a significant change in moving full-back David McInerney out from the number 3 slot to partner Tony Kelly in midfield.
(The irony of Clare’s greatest number three shaking things up in the full-back line is probably not lost on anyone.) In doing so Lohan has given Clare more balance in the middle of the field while retaining the option to get McInerney to firefight if the defence gets into trouble.
The other side in Munster have been trying out option after option: Waterford manager Liam Cahill looked to be facing into some difficult times this season with players out through injury and travelling, but their opening win over Cork turned up some promising finds. One of them, Iarlaith Daly, was playing Harty Cup last year but chipped in with a point against Cork from wing-back. Another possibility for the summer.
When it comes to the widest array of options, however, the man in Kilkenny seems set fair.
Brian Cody’s Cats dismissed Dublin despite being reduced to 14 men, and they also did so with a central spine of Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan in defence, with Walter Walsh and Ger Aylward at 11 and 14.
Yet in a few weeks time the defence could be augmented by Padraig Walsh, with TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly manning the centre of the attack. The return of the Tullaroan and Ballyhale Shamrocks All-Ireland club medallists will boost Cody’s options even more.
What more can the league offer any manager?