With the new round robin system coming into effect for the 2018 provincial championships, all ten counties in the Liam MacCarthy Cup will be anxious not only to be at full strength but to add to their panel of players.
However, with teams not yet back training yet (officially anyway), Cork have been dealt a blow with the news that 2017 captain Stephen McDonnell is to step away from the set up for the upcoming season.
With such an emphasis on having a big panel of players next year, this is not the news John Meyler would have wanted as he tries to build on the Munster title success of 2017.
The Rebels fell short in the All-Ireland semi-final against Waterford but are in a strong position to kick-off the new year but the absence of McDonnell will leave a noticeable gap in the defence.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Meyler said:
“Stephen’s not in our plans. He’s taking time out in 2018 so he won’t be available.”
Despite the loss of the Glen Rovers man, Meyler is confident of putting together a strong panel of players – with quality reinforcements all over the park.
“Our aim is to get two players for each position, it always is. With the five league games, possibly league play-offs, the new format for the Munster championship — you’re going to have to have two players for each position.”
Unlike most managers in the MacCarthy Cup, Meyler has experience of a round robin championship structure as he managed Carlow and Kerry in the Leinster qualifiers in recent years so he has a better idea than most how to manages a squad playing week on week.
“I’ve experience of that with Carlow and Kerry in the round-robin format of the Leinster championship, and I can tell you that by week three of that system fellas are on their knees.”
As preparations for 2018 intensify, McDonnell’s departure means there is at least one spot up for grabs in the Rebel back line.
Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man where we spoke with Con O’Callaghan, Mattie Kenny and Brian Cody.