When beleaguered Cork manager Gerald McCarthy sends out the ultimate ‘experimental’ team against Dublin in the Allianz National Hurling League opener at Pairc Ui Chaoimh tomorrow, their progress will be followed with interest beyond the boundary of the Rebel County.
One area in which the match will register on the radar is Antrim - and for very good reasons, too.
The Saffrons are due to meet Dublin when they take their Leinster Championship baptism in June and joint managers Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton are particularly keen to see how the Dubs, now under the baton of former Clare All Ireland winner Anthony Daly, fare against what will be a totally unrecognisable Cork outfit.
All the familiar faces will be missing from the Cork side, of course, because of the ongoing impasse between themselves and manager McCarthy for whom they are not prepared to play.
But while McCarthy (pictured) himself is fired up for the League, he will surely feel added heat now that the Cork football squad have indicated that they too will take the strike route at the conclusion of the National League if the impasse is not resolved by then.
The footballers have issued a statement in which they urge all Cork followers to make their views on the situation known through their clubs in order to influence the county board to change their mind on McCarthy’s suitability for his position.
Meanwhile, the hurling boss is positively relishing tomorrow’s contest.
"It’s all systems go. We will have a very young team out but they are very determined and they’re going to give it their best shot. They are representing the red jersey in the second most prestigious hurling competition," raps McCarthy.
There are five representatives from county champions Sarsfields in the side Alan Kennedy, Conor O’Sullivan, Ray Ryan, Craig Leahy and Tadhg Og Murphy while Bride Rovers duo Barry Johnson and Michael Collins are joined by St Finbarr’s pair Eoin Keane and Glen O’Connor.
All Ireland champions Kilkenny, meanwhile, will meet Galway at Pearse Stadium, Salthill in what should be a thriller given that the westerners will be keen to fire an early warning shot now that they, like Antrim, have been welcomed into the Leinster Championship.
Kilkenny manager Brian Cody expects to have a strong side on duty against the westerners who will have six debutants on board.
Waterford, distraught at losing last year’s All Ireland final to the Cats after their enthralling Munster Championship triumph, will face a Tipperary side anxious to regain credibility after promising much but delivering rather little of late.
Familiar faces will be missing from both teams but this should not be allowed to detract from the probability that this will be a thrilling contest.
CORK: A Kennedy; E Clancy, C Murphy, C O’Sullivan; E Keane, R Ryan, C Leahy; B Johnson, G O’Connor; T Óg Murphy, A Ryan, D Crowley; A Mannix, M Collins, E Cronin.