Kieran Kingston has appealed for patience from Cork fans as his developing side prepares for tomorrow evening’s Allianz NHL Division 1A opener at home to Clare.
A big crowd is expected at Páirc Uí Rinn for the visit of the champions and Cork are targeting a much improved campaign after losing all five group fixtures last year.
That run of form plunged the Rebels into a relegation play-off with Galway, which they won, and the hope is that Kingston can steer the team into the top four this season.
Kingston is into his second season as manager and he’s already secured some early silverware in the form of the Munster Senior League. But Kingston doesn’t need reminding Cork’s recent record at national level doesn’t make pretty reading.
Cork haven’t won an All-Ireland senior title since 2005, an U21 famine dates back to 1998 and the last minor success was achieved in 2001.
And Kingston acknowledged: “I don’t have to reiterate the lack of success Cork have had at minor, U21 and senior for the last number of years. But we’re very happy with the panel we have. We have a significant number of U21s and they’re doing everything we’ve asked of them.
“They’re mad to be involved but we have to be patient with them and nurture them along. It’s a huge step up from the Munster League and we have to develop these lads. Some will develop quicker than others.”
The absence of some regular first-team players provides Kingston with the chance to experiment to an extent against Clare.
Damien Cahalane will miss the first two rounds with a broken hand, while Brian Lawton and Luke O’Farrell have recently returned to training after long-term injury problems, and won’t be considered for the Clare game.
Kingston will also hand late fitness tests to Conor Lehane and captain Stephen McDonnell, before the starting 15 is revealed this evening. But Kingston will be using the players on his panel who are involved in the concluding stages of the Fitzgibbon Cup campaign, and a number of Freshers also.
He added: “We’re totally aware the Munster League will have no bearing on the National League – we know that. It’s a huge step up from what we’ve been experiencing for the first month of the year. Players are well aware of that as well but the Munster League was good for us in terms of how we used it to get a few competitive games into the panel, and to see some lads coming onto the scene, and to see how they reacted.
“We were happy with the effort and everybody that played tried hard and put in a real shift. We got effort in abundance,now we need to get more of the same – and more.”
Kingston admitted: “We were very disappointed with the (National) League last year, no question. We survived by the skin of our teeth and that was very disappointing. We’ll be taking this one game at a time and focusing on our own performance – we can only control that. We know that Clare are coming to Cork as League champions, and with a strong panel of players.
“They’ve had huge success under Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor at U21 level, they’re League champions and were one of the All-Ireland favourites last year. It’s a huge test for us in Páirc Uí Rinn but it’s the first League game of the year and we’re hoping people come out and support the team.”
Meanwhile, former Cork player Cian McCarthy is expected to complete his club switch from Sarsfields to Douglas shortly. McCarthy has requested a transfer from the club with whom he won four county SHC medals - and it’s expected to be rubberstamped at the next county board meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday week.
McCarthy’s move is viewed generally as a surprise but Sars underperformed last year and were knocked out of the senior championship at the fourth round stage. The player’s father, former Cork dual star Teddy, was at the Sarsfields helm last year and was expected to continue in the role, before it was confirmed recently he had vacated the position.
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