John Fogarty picks out three hurlers who need to impress their managers...
Seamus Hickey (Limerick)
An All Star three years ago, the last two years have been a letdown for the 29-year-old. Toggling between the defensive lines, it will be John Kiely’s job to find a position where the Murroe-Boher man is most effective but a starting spot won’t be a given. When Hickey in on his game he is an inspiration but his form has been questionable. Kiely seems to favour a half-back line station, but there is strong competition for places there with Declan Hannon having moved into the area. Diarmuid Byrnes, Gavin O’Mahony (currently injured), and Darragh O’Donovan will all be in the shake-up.
Jason Forde (Tipperary)
The great underage hope of Tipperary earlier this decade, a combination of injury and middling form has kept the Silvermines man out of the Tipperary starting team. Forde only turned 23 in December but will have seen how the likes of Seamus Kennedy and John McGrath graduated into first-teamers last year and will want to emulate them this season. Being second choice substitute behind Niall O’Meara will give him food for thought but it’s the motivation Forde will surely bring to his game in this campaign. Michael Ryan will be looking for players outside his established 15 to ensure his team don’t become slack after their 2016 exploits.
Damien Cahalane (Cork)
Pilloried to a ridiculous level at times, you can’t but admire how Cahalane has toughed it out with the hurlers. The 24-year-old could so easily have followed Aidan Walsh into the football panel — and, boy, how Peadar Healy must be delighted that Walsh did — but Cahalane doesn’t seem like he’s going to let his detractors get to him. It’s Cahalane’s physique and edge that Cork so badly need to come to the fore if they are to make progress this year. There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of stature to the Cork defence but they must match the bark with bite and Cahalane must be at the forefront of that.
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