Cork senior hurling selector Pat Hartnett says league champions Clare, who roll into Páirc Uí Rinn tonight for the NHL Division 1A opener against the home side, represent “a tall order” for a youthful Rebel team.
“Clare come with a good track record,” said Hartnett. “The two lads in charge, Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor, have won All-Ireland U21 titles with Clare so they’ll obviously know the players well and bring a lot of those players onto the panel.
“It’s a tall order for us, but our pre-season went well, and the preliminary competition, the Munster League, served its purpose. We got to see quite a few guys and we were glad of that.”
Hartnett pointed to the fresh faces on the Cork side in comparison with last season: “I was lucky enough to be involved with the Cork minor team a couple of years ago, and credit has to go to Denis Ring and his management team the last few years for bringing these lads through.
“Last year we had one player on the 34-man panel who was an U21, while this year we have 12 U21s involved with us which includes seven players from that minor team — players like Luke Meade were in the minor team the year ahead of them.
“Obviously, we’re going to have quite a few changes, a pronounced U21 representation on the team tonight.”
The former Cork star said home supporters would have expectations but pointed to the level of intensity going up “20 to 30%” from the Munster Hurling League.
“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do,” said Hartnett. “Those players have done well so far, and the chemistry between those new players and the lads who are there a number of years has been good.
“That’s the important thing and we’re looking forward to seeing that tonight in Páirc Uí Rinn. We know there are expectations. If you’re involved with a Cork team there are always expectations, and rightfully so, but we know Clare are going to perform, and ultimately we have to out-perform them.
“That’s it in one.
“We know Clare are good, we know they’ll get scores, but we have faith in these guys. They’ve trained well, have good ability which is down to the people who trained them coming up through the ranks from U14, U16 and particularly minor level.
“These players are the embodiment of the work that’s being done now in the schools and the development squads and so forth, and if you’re good enough then you’re old enough. The level is going to go up 20 to 30% from the Munster League, but opportunity comes and it must be grasped.”
Hartnett acknowledged the tightness of a six-team league but said Cork were focusing on what they could control: “It’s all about the next game up for us — if we can keep going with the workrate and effort, with lads buying into what’s being done, that’s what we’re looking forward to seeing.
“A continuation of what we did in the pre-season, the way they’re training, bringing that to the match field is what’s important. That’s what we can control. The group works very hard, and credit is due to their hurling, which is crisp, but the main thing is to outperform the teams we’re playing.”
Hartnett added that Steven McDonnell, Conor Lehane, Damien Cahalane, Luke O’Farrell, Brian Lawton and Robbie O’Flynn are “all definitely out of the panel of 26 tonight with short to medium-term injuries.”
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