Aussie Rules addition, returning club star and five injury worries as Cork set for new campaign
A NEW ADDITION as a player returns from the AFL, a returning forward after a stellar club season and the usual collection of springtime injury worries.
Kieran Kingston faces into another league campaign as Cork hurling boss on Saturday evening, trying to get his team moving again after the disappointing note on which their 2021 efforts concluded on the All-Ireland final stage.
Cork start out against Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in their Division 1 opener with five players unlikely to be involved after recent injury travails.
“Jack O’Connor hasn’t trained in a while, Robbie O’Flynn hasn’t trained in a while, just coming back now,” said Kingston.
“Declan Dalton, Niall Cashman, Alan Connolly are long-term injuries, haven’t trained at all with two or three months. Declan got an injury with his club in the start of November, had to have an operation, isn’t back training yet, so obviously there’s a rehab process here, then there’s getting back onto the field with us, then there’s getting up to match practice so it’ll be a challenge to get back during the league.
“Niall is just back doing a little bit with us and Alan is out, dislocated his shoulder and again is rehabbing from that, so we haven’t seen him either. They’re difficult injuries to gauge.”
Cork manager Kieran Kingston.
Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Mark Keane will not be available on Saturday as he will be in the midst of Croke Park action with his club Ballygiblin chasing All-Irealnd junior glory. After a couple years with Collingwood in Melbourne, mixed with an eye-catching cameo for the Cork footballers in 2020, Keane is an intriguing hurling addition.
“We were aware of him back along and that he was away really,” said Kingston.
“Obviously everybody was aware of him when he came back and scored the goal against Kerry there a couple of years ago. He came to the fore and then obviously came back in the middle of his term over to play with his club and had a good run there, so basically I just approached him, had a chat with him, see what was his thinking. Is it something he was interested in? So we had a number of discussions and he just decided to throw his lot in with us, so we’re delighted to have him.”
The Cork boss has also drafted Conor Lehane back into his panel. He dazzled for Midleton in last year’s Cork senior hurling final, shooting 0-13 as captain, a display taht secured the man-of-the-match award.
“I’ve always operated a very fluid panel and players know that. The panel is never fixed. That’s very important for competition within the group, form, injury, attitude, application, whatever it might be, change of work, change of profile, fellas moving. Conor knew that when he was leaving the panel, that the opportunity would be there for him to rejoin, as any other player would know when we speak to them if they’re no longer part of the squad. He took that opportunity with his club, had a really, really good club season and we’d like to have him back. So let’s see how it goes.
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“We’ve had three high-profile retirements with Eoin Cadogan, Bill Cooper and Colm Spillane. A number of the 20s have joined the squad from the last two All-Ireland winning teams.
“It’s a very young squad which is great for now and the future of Cork hurling. It’s challenging in that this particular few weeks with Fitzgibbon Cup and Freshers, I think we’ve approximately 22, 23 players playing games at the moment with their respective colleges.
That puts its own demands on us in terms of managing their load, the number of games they have each week. These few weeks are difficult from that perspective.”