The Cork hurlers face Tipperary on Sunday looking down the barrel of an Allianz Hurling League relegation play-off.
Rebel manager John Meyler remains consistent on what he and his selectors have been looking for from the league, however.
“The goal has always been to be competitive and to win matches, which is obviously what every county is trying to do.
“That’s what we’ve been doing over the course of the national league. It’s now March and we’re playing [in the championship] on May 20, so there won’t be another framework, or other official matches, we’ll call them, to try out your team.
“As a result you’re going to have to have your team nearly ready at the end of the league for the championship.”
Has the league been completely overshadowed by the summer’s requirements, then?
“I was at different matches throughout the league, and our own, obviously.
“I thought the match with Wexford, in particular, was hugely competitive for that time of the year. Maybe, as it’s gone on, different counties have looked at their own situations, maybe they’ve been thinking ‘we’re safe here, we can do this or that’.
“Take Galway and Limerick, who’ve already qualified for the national league quarter-finals without even appearing in a live televised game, yet.
"There’s no pressure on Galway and Limerick apart from Sunday’s game, which is their first really competitive game — next Sunday is our fifth competitive game.
“You’d have to put the word ‘competitive’ in inverted commas but all our games have been competitive.
“Galway and Limerick are in a quarter-final of the league and there hasn’t been a word about them. It’s interesting.”
The cancellation of last weekend’s games meant a chance to get some work done, he adds.
“The fact you had a weekend off meant you could do some extra stuff — some extra training, extra analysis, extra coaching. It also gives another week to players to overcome niggles and injuries.
"It gave Conor (Lehane) and Damien (Cahalane) some extra time to recover and get up to speed — it means you didn’t have to put pressure on players to line out last weekend when it might have been critical. The week off gives you that at least.”
He doesn’t say whether Cork focused on goalscoring in those extra sessions but points to other teams succeeding without too many green flags.
“When those chances come — Patrick Horgan’s goal against Waterford was a very good one, the way he took it. We need to get into those situations more often. Shane (Kingston) had a shot against Waterford but their keeper made a very good save.
“It’s that extra little bit, those extra few percentage points, are what counts.”
And those extra percentages may count on Sunday.
“I’ve mentioned how competitive Division 1A is, and playing Tipperary is an example of that. We were only saying during the week to the lads that they’ve been going to Thurles since they were children, so that doesn’t change.
"They’re looking forward to the game. We won’t know about the relegation situation until Sunday evening — all we’re focused on is the Tipperary game, and whatever happens, we’ll assess that then.”
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