Cork senior hurling manager John Meyler is looking for plenty of red and white in the Semple Stadium stands on Sunday — just like last year.
The Rebel supporters helped increase attendances at Munster championship hurling games last year by over 25%, and Meyler hopes those figures are maintained in Sunday's Cork-Tipperary clash (Semple Stadium, 2pm).
“We’re just looking for the Cork support to fall in behind the team — in fairness, we had almost 25,000 people in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday, most of them from Cork.
“In last year’s championship our first three games were all in Thurles — Tipperary, Waterford and Clare, and the crowd built and built every time. On the basis of last weekend’s crowd, I’d be hoping for a good Cork crowd to fall in behind them again on Sunday.
“The entire team, from the younger fellas to the experienced players, they all love playing in that environment. Cork people love to go to Semple Stadium, Cork hurlers love playing there — it’s a fantastic arena.
“Last year’s Munster final was a great occasion, it was fantastic to see the red all over Semple Stadium that day and it’d be great to see the same this weekend.”
It’s been an unusual few days since Cork beat Clare in the new format — Meyler compares the physical demands of the 2018 round robin with the long gaps between games in previous years.
“I’ve said it in the past, that it’s about recovery and checking on injuries and niggles — getting fellas mentally right for a game that’s only a few days away.
“If this were last year, for instance, we’d have had four weeks to prepare: now we have six days. Now it’s about playing matches, whereas last year it’d be a case of giving them a week off, then two weeks’ hard training, then a week tapering down to the game.
“I’d have learned from my own young fella (David, Ireland soccer international) about resetting for the next game the way they do in professional soccer. In the GAA we love to look back on games and decipher games, to puzzle out what happened with that missed ball, that goal, all of that.
“Last Sunday at ten past six we were thinking immediately of Tipperary. There was no time to dwell too much on Clare — you have to pick out the positives and negatives from your display, to work on those, but really you have to focus on the next game immediately.
“That’s what I like about this format. One exciting game and nothing for a month last year, but now a week after the Clare game it’s Tipp in Thurles. Brilliant for the players, for the supporters, for the games.
“Let’s be honest, there’s been talk for ages about the balance between games and training and about players having to do too much training for the number of games being played, and now there are plenty of games.”
The physical demands have increased as well, however, meaning every manager needs all his squad members to pull their weight.
“The panel has now become more and more important. That’s particularly true when you have to assess injuries. Do you leave this guy out or chance him the next day, is he worth risking or will you keep him? The challenges to management are huge.
“The supporters have to be enjoying this, though, with games coming over five Sundays. For Cork supporters it’s better because there are a couple of games at home, it’s not about driving for hours out of the county every Sunday.
“And there are knock-on benefits for Cork businesses as well.
“We had three games in Thurles last year but this year there are two home games, its thousands of people around to spend their money in Cork, so there’s a feel-good factor too.”
And some clashes don’t need a build-up. The hinterland to Cork and Tipperary doesn’t need much explication no matter what the championship structure looks like.
“It’s Cork and Tipp, and there’s over 125 years of tradition between the two counties. You know what’s coming against Tipperary, there’s going to be a huge crowd and the home team will want to respond after last Sunday.
“It’s fire, passion, commitment. Everything, really.”
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