Meyler sees value in blooding young guns in the Munster league
CORK’S CoOpSuperStores.ie Munster Hurling League campaign wasn’t a successful one, with defeats to Clare and Waterford ending the county’s chances of reaching the final, but coach John Meyler was pleased with the opportunity to unearth new talent.
The less-pressurised environment of the provincial league – and last Sunday’s Canon O’Brien Cup win over UCC – is the perfect landscape in which to blood players and Meyler was keen to take the positives in that regard.
“How else can I play players?” he said.
“We’re away to Kilkenny in three weeks’ time in the National League and I can’t just throw Robert Downey in against TJ Reid and those players. He’s too raw.
“You use these games because, while there’s a certain amount of pressure, it gives young players like Conor O’Callaghan and Seán O’Leary-Hayes ten minutes, 20 minutes, and gets them into the system.
“There were 2,000 people in Mallow, Waterford named a strong team and we had just one seasoned campaigner, Christopher Joyce.
“Waterford had Kevin Moran, [Michael] ‘Brick’ Walsh, Austin Gleeson came on – those are all senior players, some of them have been playing senior for Waterford for ten years and more. We’re trying to blood new young players but it’s a two- or three-year plan.
“The likes of Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon came in directly a couple of years ago, but that’s a rarity.”
Last Wednesday’s game in Mallow was one where Cork competed well in the first half, leading by two at the break, before Waterford’s experience told in the second period.
Walsh’s goal tied the game and a flurry of points for the more experienced Déise side put them into a lead that they would not relinquish, giving Páraic Fanning victory in his first outing as manager.
The final score was 1-24 to 1-18 in favour of the visitors but, nevertheless, Meyler felt that individual players did well, which bodes positively ahead of what is likely to be a competitive Allianz Hurling League Division 1A campaign.
In what is the final year of the current format, the top four will advance to the quarter-finals, but the bottom two will clash in a relegation play-off.
Last year, Cork were caught in that tie – coincidentally against Waterford, whom they beat to stay up, and Meyler is hopeful that the players given their head in the January competition can challenge for places in the spring to ensure a strong squad is available to the management.
“We had some good performances against a strong Waterford team,” he said.
“Tim O’Mahony hit some ball and Declan Dalton had a few scores. A win and we would have been playing Tipperary in the final in a couple of weeks, but as it is we’ve had a couple of games and we’ve used them to blood these players to see where they’re at.
“We have a few injuries as well that we’re dealing with, but we’ve had a look at lads like Conor Cahalane, and his energy and speed – if we could harness that for the league, that’s the kind of positive we need.
“This opportunity, the Munster senior league, is a competition that exposes these lads to games without putting that 100 per cent pressure on them. Pa Collins gets two games in goal, Robert Downey, Niall O’Leary, all those lads get games, and that helps with their development over the next couple of