Patrick Horgan has admitted he was surprised to be dropped by Cork during last summer's Championship, claiming that he was 'treated unfairly' by management.
The experienced forward didn't mention former manager Kieran Kingston by name but claimed in an interview to launch the Allianz Hurling League that 'the year was kind of a failure before it kind of even happened' as there was 'just stuff going on all the time that really is not supposed to happen on a team'.
Horgan himself started all four of Cork's Munster championship games, registering 0-28 and became the Championship's all-time leading scorer on the day they defeated Waterford.
But he was dropped for the All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final win over Antrim and was benched again for the quarter-final against Galway.
With a misfiring Cork estimated to have left as much as 3-12 behind them in the first half of that Galway game, Horgan was called upon at half-time, but they ultimately went on to lose by a point, ending their campaign.
"I suppose it was challenging," said Horgan of being dropped. "I thought for a lot of last year that there was a lot of, I suppose, treatment going on that kind of...that I thought wasn't fair. That doesn't mean to say anybody else didn't think it was fair, I suppose. Anybody who doesn't play thinks they're being treated unfairly but, yeah, I was one of them and I thought I was being treated unfairly."
In Kingston's first spell as Cork manager, he also left Horgan on the bench for a couple of Allianz League games in 2017. Horgan later stated in a 2018 interview that he would "laugh about it now with Kieran. I always say, 'Remember the time you dropped me, nice one'. I get no reply."
There has been no such jovial outcome this time with Horgan recalling that he 'felt really sharp actually' in advance of the Antrim game last June and that he was surprised to be axed.
"We should probably be focusing on this year but if the question is there, yeah, I was surprised, because I thought I was training really well," said Horgan, who described it as a difficult season overall.
"Maybe I didn't do enough, I don't know. But maybe I did, I don't know. I don't think much went right last year and I don't know what that was down to. I suppose everybody has their own opinions but I just didn't think the year was...eh, the year was kind of a failure before it kind of even happened.
"I just think there was stuff going on all the time that really is not supposed to happen on a team. Everybody is supposed to be positive and everybody is supposed to be driving each other, exactly the way it is happening now.
"When you have fellas training three, four, five times a week, giving it their all, the least they deserve is probably a bit of encouragement. That's exactly what's happening at the moment.
"Every fella is driving on, we're getting a buzz off each other, number one, and a buzz off the positivity around the whole group, number two. When I go to work in the morning, I'm thinking, 'I can't wait to go training tonight', and that's always a good place to be."
Horgan nursed a knee injury over winter but returned to the starting lineup of new manager Pat Ryan's team for the Munster Hurling League final defeat of Tipperary, scoring 1-6.
The expert free-taker, who hit 0-10 in last season's Allianz League final, said he wasn't given an explanation for his removal from the first team during the Championship though didn't necessarily expect one.
"No, funnily enough, no, I wasn't given much of that," he said. "I wasn't told anything really, which kind of made it a bit strange. But at the same time, as I said a while ago, I was in a panel of players and if someone is going to tell me why I am not playing, or why I am playing, they'd have to tell everybody else to be fair. That's a big job too. I wouldn't have expected a reason."
The Glen Rovers man said the episode didn't cast a shadow over his Championship top scorer achievement.
"No, every player goes through these situations at some stage in your career. I probably went through something similar in '17, early on. These things happen. People come in with different opinions, different mindset and different things they want. Different things from different fellas and you can't do anything about that."
Cork will begin their Division 1 campaign at home to Limerick on Saturday and Horgan, who turns 35 in May, is enthusiastic about another season.
"I feel fresh, I feel fit, probably fitter than ever before," he said. "I just have this drive for continuous improvement."