The return of experienced defenders Christopher Joyce and Lorcan McLoughlin is a major boost to the Cork senior hurling management ahead of tomorrow’s NHL opener against Galway (Pearse Stadium, 2pm).
Cork had to plan without Joyce for most of last year after the Na Piarsaigh man tore his cruciate in the early stages of the League, while Lorcan McLoughlin’s return after a collarbone injury also strengthens Cork’s squad considerably.
“It’s a huge boost to us, they’re both terrific players,” says Cork selector Pat Ryan. “I’d have only known them from the outside before now, really, before coming on board with Cork, and they’re fantastically well respected within the squad - Kieran (Kingston, manager) would have told us that beforehand.
“They’re fantastic trainers, their attitude is first class - whatever about bringing in two top players, which is good enough, you’re bringing in lads with a great attitude who are very good to have around.
“Christopher can play anywhere from full-back, centre-back to midfield, while Lorcan can play any position in the middle eight, really, so they’re players who can fill very important positions for us.
“It gives you great flexibility because you can move fellas here and there when you have those options.”
It’s not all good news for Ryan and the management, however: “Mark Ellis, Killian Burke, Colm Spillane, Conor O’Sullivan, they’re all definitely out for the weekend. Some of the lads we didn’t have on hand during the Munster senior hurling league, the likes of Patrick Horgan, Aidan Walsh, but they’ll be back.
“Daniel Kearney and Conor Lehane are just back from injury and don’t have a lot done, so while they’ll probably play a part, we don’t know if they’ll be able to play a full part.” There’ll be a lot of interest in the approach the Rebels take this year, after disappointing championship exits in the last two seasons.
“Our view of Cork hurling is that we expect Cork to play a manly brand of hurling which is fast and open.
“Obviously we want to be tactically aware as well, but we don’t want to go away from what Cork hurling has been, taking the ball on and moving it fast, creating opportunities.
“Cork would have played a physical game as well down the years, and we have the likes of Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Pat Hartnett involved, two of the most physical players ever.
“You can’t go away from all your strengths either. We have a very good hurling team and we need to concentrate on that, too.
“Frank (Flannery) has a huge amount of experience as a coach and he had Oulart playing a good brand of hurling this year too.”
Flannery coached Oulart to an emotional Leinster club title win last year, and Ryan says they’re delighted he’s back full-time now.
They need him, as Ryan says “it’s a definite step up”, going from club level to intercounty.
“It is, on any number of levels. For instance, if you’re managing your club team then you’re probably living in the locality, as are most of the players, you’ll see them around and about.
“With the county you have lads coming in to training from all over, inside the county and out, and you may not see them outside of training or games from one end of the week to the next.
“You’re out of your comfort zone in terms of getting to know lads, too - you’re in with your club side and you know them all your life, inside out, but when you fall in at intercounty level you have to get to know lads, and that takes a bit of getting used to.
“It’s the old cliche, the lads who need a hand around the shoulder and those who need a kick in the backside.
“There’s a lot more focus on detail - the strength and conditioning, the diet, all of those things.
“And the level of detail Kieran has to go into is a step above all of that again. When you’re in charge of a Cork team it’s like being the chairman of a club and the senior manager, that’s probably the best way of describing it.”
In that sense the continuity helps - Kingston was a selector with Jimmy Barry-Murphy and Flannery a coach with Waterford.
“It’s vital, as is the role of Declan O’Sullivan. He’s a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach, but having been involved for so long as a physio with Cork teams, he has huge knowledge in terms of physical preparation, how fellas get themselves right, given all the management teams he’s worked with.
Sean O’Donnell (stats) has been involved for years as well, so he brings extra expertise, as is Donal O’Mahony, who’s working with the goalkeepers.
“He’s been fantastic as well.”
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