Former Cork hurler and selector, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, believes John Meyler needs to unearth fresh talent that he can trust to close out a tight game as they prepare for the new season.
The Paddy Power GAA Ambassador compared the Rebel county to Limerick, and their use of subs during last year’s semi-final clash between the two teams.
During that game, John Kiely introduced seven substitutes who scored 2-6 between them. In comparison, Cork’s introductions made no impact on the scoreboard.
O’Sullivan insists that Meyler will have to use the upcoming National League to improve their strength in depth.
“It was evident that day against Limerick. Cork had only 17, possibly 18 lads they could trust, Limerick had 20, 21, that was the difference at the end of the day.”
“So throughout the National League the management really need to find five or six guys that, throughout the Munster round-robin series and the All Ireland series, that they can go to their bench and they can look, ‘yeah, we know we can trust him, we know we can trust him’ and build from there.”
A lack of quality and talent is not an issue in Cork as their U21s proved in their 13-point hammering of Tipperary in the Munster final, four days after their senior team took home the provincial title for the second year in-a-row.
The Cloyne man believes it is time for these players to force their way onto the senior starting team.
“Declan Dalton, Chris O’Leary, they’re potentials. You can go to Conor Cahalane, there’s a couple of guys in there, Sean O’Leary from Midleton, he’s a young, progressive defender, Brian Turnbull from Douglas has real potential.”
“Add that to possibly Tom O’Mahoney from last year, Robbie O’Flynn, these guys really need to consolidate and push on and put John Meyler in a position and say, ‘John, I’m ready. Why aren’t you giving me the opportunity?’”
“Just put the management in a position where they can’t really say no to you anymore.”
The structure of this year’s Allianz National League means that no team will be relegated from Division 1A, as they prepare for the changes which are being introduced in 2020 that will see two groups of six teams.
According to O’Sullivan, this will relieve the pressure on Meyler and his management squad and allow the time to focus on strengthening their squad rather than results.
“You want to win games but you want to win and you want to learn at the same time. So Cork, if you look at competitions last year, every League game there were probably the same 13, 14 guys going out week in, week out.”
“So now at least when you’re playing a top game, playing Tipperary, Clare, Kilkenny, you can allow yourself to make four or five changes. It just gives you that opportunity to mix and match on a weekly basis.”
“OK, you still don’t want to finish bottom of the league, but it’d be nice to finish with two or three wins and find five players, something similar to what Brian Cody did last year.”
Cork begin their League campaign away to Kilkenny this Sunday, but O’Sullivan believes that the real focus will be on May 12 when Cork welcome Tipperary to Pairc Ui Chaoimh to begin their quest for a third consecutive Munster crown.
“They’d be naive not to focus on it, I suppose that could be where your summer starts and finishes. If you don’t win your home games, you’re going to be on the back foot. Cork need to get off in the right manner.”
“John Meyler will use his five League games to find out where his squad are at and what they need to do to be successful this year.”
Irish bookmakers Paddy Power have announced their GAA Ambassadors for 2019, revealing that former Kerry football star Darran O’Sullivan has joined their crack squad of columnists which include, Tyrone great Owen ‘Mugsy’ Mulligan, Cork hurling hero Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan and the pride of the Premier Country, Tipp’s Eoin Kelly.