THE RETURN OF Munster title winners Stephen McDonnell and Aidan Walsh to the Cork hurling squad is a prospect when their management assemble their squad for the 2019 season.

Cork coach Kieran Murphy confirmed today that the duo ‘have put their hands up’ to be available for selection for next season.

McDonnell and Walsh both started in Cork’s 2014 Munster final victory over Limerick with McDonnell captaining the side to success against Clare last summer.

28-year-old Walsh hasn’t featured for Cork in the 2017 and 2018 championship campaigns as he lined out for the county football side while 29-year-old McDonnell opted out last season.

“We haven’t finalised our panel at the moment but certainly they are in the discussions,” revealed Murphy in Croke Park today at the launch of the Fenway Hurling Classic 2018.

“Stephen opted out this year because he was doing a bit of travelling and a bit of work commitments. Obviously Aidan was tied up with the footballers, so look as far as I’m aware these lads have put their hands up to say that they’re available.

“We’ll be sitting down over the next few weeks after the club championship and obviously with the pedigree that these guys have, they’re certainly going to be in our thoughts.

“You’re always looking to add value. You need to kind of determine what are their characteristics? If you were to bring them back, what are they actually bringing to the table?

“Obviously these guys have a lot of experience, they’re still in good shape, they both look after themselves very well, so I suppose that would be kind of a key thing that they need to bring. They have that experience. When we do sit down for discussions, that will certainly be a help.”

Aidan Walsh celebrating Kanturk’s All-Ireland club victory earlier this year with Anthony Nash.

Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

Murphy does not envisage any player retirements from the Cork setup before next season commences.

“You’d always kind of gauge it from the mood in the camp. Certainly there’d be nobody walk away before Boston anyway! We don’t expect anybody to kind of walk away to be honest so unless something out of the blue now in terms of work or anything like that comes up.

“Every fella has indicated they’re fresh and they’re hungry and the atmosphere is good so fellas are willing to go again. You’re going into a tough Munster championship again next year but I actually think that excites these players. These games week on, week off suits them. They just want to play games.”

The Cork management are currently monitoring the form of players in club games and considering what underage hurlers to draft into their senior squad yet Murphy feels it is a natural policy rather than a reaction to concerns over their squad depth in the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Limerick.

A dejected Cork hurling manager John Meyler after their loss to Limerick.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“There was a lot made of that after the semi-final. The one thing that happened us in the semi-final is the three lads in the half-forward line all picked up injuries. Seamus (Harnedy) picked up an injury in the first half, Danny (Kearney) and Luke (Meade) picked up injuries at the same time in the semi-final.

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“Robbie (O’Flynn) came on and probably had more of an impact than what people were saying because of the end result. Certainly we need to get a few of the U21s and just kind of integrate them into the panel. We were fortunate this year that Tim O’Mahony, Robbie Flynn, we’ve Jack O’Connor, just a couple other guys that are putting their hands up in the U21 setup.

“We’re looking at these guys now to see what’s their next step, do they have the ability to come into the ranks and challenge for a senior spot. The clubs take priority now and the main emphasis from a management point of view now is just going to club games, watching fellas.

“You’re trying to find a few players to bring on to the panel and challenge some of the lads in the panel. Talking to John, it’s just a natural thing at the end of every year, you’re probably going to freshen things up and bring a couple more in so that’s the main focus at the moment.”

A two-time All-Ireland senior winner as a player, Murphy believes the underage outlook for Cork is brighter now in comparison to the struggles experienced a few years ago but the challenge in converting that at senior level remains.

“There was a lot of doom and gloom a good few years ago. In fairness you have to give credit to the Rebel Óg that’s been set up, I know they’re looking at that at the moment just in terms of the structure of it and stuff. It has kind of come to fruition.

“The 17s win last year was great, the 21s getting to the All-Ireland final this year, disappointing not to win it but again it’s another Munster title, it’s another bit of confidence for the lads. There is young players coming, it’s all about getting them into the framework of inter-county training and inter-county mindset. That’s probably the challenge now for Cork as a whole.”

Wexford’s Lee Chin, Peter Duggan of Clare, Sean Finn of Limerick and Patrick Horgan of Cork at today’s 2018 Fenway Hurling Classic Launch.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Before they begin their preparations for 2019, Cork will be one of four county teams travelling to Boston for the Fenway Hurling Classic that takes place on 18 November.

“Fellas are absolutely thrilled with it, it’s the first kind of trip these lads would have had in a good few years,” says Murphy.

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“You look at someone like Patrick (Horgan) who’s given so much time and commitment to Cork, for him to go over to Fenway Park and play over there, especially when he’s great contacts and great friends over in Boston, that’s what it’s about.

“To go over and play in Fenway, such an iconic stadium, to be able to say I was on the field there, it’s brilliant. The concept is excellent, they’re refining it all the time, it needs constant refinement.

“I think as Davy (Fitzgerald) said there, there is definitely a need for the game to be played over there and developed over there. I think what’s coming back is they want it as well too, the community over there, not only the Irish but also the American people who go and watch the games. They love it and the more exposure we can give people to it, I think it has to be good for hurling and the GAA and the GPA.”

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