The 2018 championship may not have ended the way Cork would have wanted it to, but Bill Cooper is optimistic that everything will come right for the Rebel County in due course.
The Imokilly club man has no complaints about the manner of their exit at the hands of Limerick in the semi-final stage last July, instead, he insists the team will use the experience to drive forward in 2019.
“It was very disappointing really. You go away, lick your wounds and come back with an added energy to try and go one step further.
“We’ve a lot of learnings to take from [the loss to Limerick]. It was bitterly disappointing, there’s no two ways about it. We’d no excuses. We will look back on it and say we could have done things differently but when the dust settles, that’s sport. That’s the beauty of it.”
There are plenty of reasons for Cork fans to be optimistic heading into the new season. The county are on the hunt for their third Munster title in-a-row while there is a pool of underage talent for John Meyler to call upon following their run to the All Ireland U21 final last year.
Cooper has welcomed the introduction of the younger generation of stars and the competition they bring with them.
“[Darragh Fitzgibbon] is ferociously talented, a great, great player and brilliant to play with. But the likes of, obviously, Mark Coleman is the obvious one and Shane Kingston, the likes of Robbie O’Flynn, Tim O’Mahoney, lads like that, they are really very good players as well, very unlucky last year they were beaten in the u21 final.”
“They are all very good players and even this year over the winter there are lads from the U17 team a couple years ago brought in, so there is more competition and that can only be good.”
Having first emerged onto the Cork senior squad in 2011, the 31-year-old is well aware of the ever increasing competitive nature of the championship season but he maintains that Cork, along with all the other counties, will continue to increase their standards and their drive accordingly.
“It’s really fine margins and it’s the same for everybody, everybody is trying to find that small few percents like, yeah it’s very competitive.”
“I suppose it’s very important when you are playing inter-county to have that motivation to try and win ultimately an All-Ireland, but it’s the same for everybody and I suppose and that’s what is probably driving the competition that so many counties are feeling like that they could go all the way. It’s brilliant for spectators I suppose going to more close games and high-quality games. “
Defending Allianz Hurling League Division 1 champions Kilkenny have a special incentive to win this year’s competition, where another success would see them join Tipperary at the top of the honours’ list. Half of Kilkenny’s honours have been won since 2002, including a treble in 2012-13-14 and doubles in 2002-03 and 2005-06. Brian Cody’s men begin their title defence at home to Cork, who were last crowned Allianz Hurling League champions in 1998. This will be the 27th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA through their sponsorship of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest sponsorships in Irish sport. It’s a very concentrated programme this year, running between next weekend and March 24, when the Division 1 final will be played.