Former All-Star Seanie McGrath reckons a knockout Championship could aid Cork’s chances of landing an All-Ireland hurling title later this year.
Any Championship that is played in 2020 will most likely be condensed into an eight or 10-week window beyond October with the provincial group structure that has been in place for the last two seasons likely to be parked.
McGrath, an All-Ireland winner in 1999 and part of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s management team when they lost a final replay in 2013, believes a change in format could actually help Cork.
The Rebels have won just four of their eight group games in Munster since the new system was introduced in 2018 and McGrath believes they would rise to the challenge of win at all costs encounters.
McGrath was speaking to Cork 96FM’s Trevor Welch as part of a series of interviews that the station is conducting with sports personalities throughout the lockdown period.
“It’s a weird one, from just talking over the phone to buddies in the last few weeks, in a weird way the knockout scene might actually suit Cork a little bit better,” said McGrath.
“We’re not winning All-Irelands so obviously that’s disappointing but we have been desperately competitive in the Munster Championship.
"Last year we were going for three-in-a-row after winning it in ’17 and ’18 and we probably have some of the most exceptional talents in the game, within Cork.
“So definitely there’s a lot of positives. I suppose we just have this tendency over the (Munster) group series that it doesn’t seem to suit us and last year was testament to that.
“But when the chips were down we went to Limerick and we got a marvellous win which kind of put us back on track a bit. So the kind of one-off scene might even suit us better.”
Cork lost to Tipperary and Clare in last year’s provincial series and while they bounced back by hitting Westmeath for 1-40 in the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-finals, their summer was cut short by Kilkenny in the next game.
It meant that Cork ended the 2010s without an All-Ireland senior hurling title success, the first time the Rebels failed to win at least one senior All-Ireland in a decade since the 1880s. They came so close when McGrath was involved in 2013 but lost to Clare after an All-Ireland final replay.
“Cork hurling is probably... it’s definitely making strides, we’re not in the doldrums,” insisted McGrath.
“But you’re measured on All-Ireland titles and you see Limerick winning of late and Galway just behind them, we just have to be winning All-Ireland titles.
"Is the club scene strong enough? Are we producing enough at schools level? I’m not sure.
"But if I was to call it critically I’d say we’re still probably a little bit behind the hunting pack, the real favourites, but with those exceptional talents within the team you always have a chance.
“Those fellas would include Patrick Horgan, Alan Cadogan, Conor Lehane, I’m a huge fan of his. If fellas like Conor get their form back then we have a great chance.
"Seamie Harnedy is continuing to play great stuff for club and county. If the backs, if one or two of them could tighten up a bit, we still have an exceptional ’keeper in Anthony Nash.
"So there’s huge positives throughout the team. We probably just need to get that bit more consistency into our play.”