2016 was a year to forget for Cork hurling. The league campaign heralded five losses from five games, before they avoided disaster with a Houdini-like escape from relegation with a win over Galway.
Things took a turn for the worse in the Championship, as a hammering at the hands of Tipperary set the tone for the rest of the summer. A narrow victory over a 14-man Dublin side was as good as things got, as the Rebels fell to Wexford in the qualifiers.
However, there is a renewed sense of optimism on Lee-side as 2017 dawns. The re-opening of Páirc Uí Chaoimh brings hope, and the Munster Senior League triumph will do little to dampen spirits ahead of the league opener.
The emergence of Luke Meade and Shane Kingston means it has been a fruitful January.
The Championship draw was not kind to the Rebels, as they must go through Tipp and Waterford to reach a Munster final. However, Ger Loughnane believes that Kieran Kingston’s side could surprise a few people this year.
“I wouldn’t underestimate Cork. Now that Gary Keegan is in there with them. Any place this man has been, he has brought teams that have been very very far down, where standards were very low, and he has raised them to the very highest [level].
“I’ve always said about Cork, they’ve plenty of athletes, they’ve enough skill, but something has gone wrong with their mentality over the last number of years. He might be the man to change that. I wouldn’t underestimate them.”
Cork open their league account against Loughnane’s native Clare on Saturday night. The former All-Ireland winning manager feels that the off-season change can benefit the Banner this year, and they have a draw that offers a platform to do something special.
“There is at least five or six teams that fancy their chances, and Clare would be among those.
“There is an awful amount of work to be done. They’re going to have to change from that style that they had for three or four years, it’s going to take a bit of time to make that adjustment.
“Davy did his best, he won an All-Ireland, things went wrong for the last three years. You don’t right that overnight.
“It’s going to take a bit of time. It will take a bit of patience.
“Once Munster Championship time comes around this year, I wouldn’t pay any heed to how Clare do in the League, when Munster Championship time comes around, I think Clare will be ready and they’ll be as big a force as anybody in the Championship.”
The full interview with Ger Loughnane will be on this week’s episode of the 16th Man, broadcast live on Pundit Arena GAA Facebook page at 7 pm, Wednesday.
Ger Loughnane was speaking to Pundit Arena at the launch of HERO in University College Cork.
HERO is an organisation set up in 2011 to provide funding for research projects and education in haematology initiated by university teaching hospitals in Cork. The charity supports research that significantly contributes to scientific knowledge on blood disorders and their treatment.
For further information or to donate to this worthy cause, visit hero-trust.ie.