Cork hurling manager Kieran Kingston begins his second Championship spell in charge of the Rebels on Saturday when taking on Waterford in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship.
Kingston, who departed the Cork side following a defeat by the Déise in 2017, believes there will be a very different feeling for players this season when running out in crowd-less stadiums.
“There is no doubt the players feed off the crowd” says Kingston. “When playing for your county, part of it is running on to the pitch in either Thurles, Croke Park, Páirc Uí Chaoimh, or wherever it is. We have to look and see where we are at the moment.”
Despite the lack of crowds at games, the bank official is fully aware of the special position senior inter-county players are in with their championship going ahead.
“We are part of a special group here because we are now playing. That’s something I said to the lads. We are honoured to be able to represent our county in the time that we have. We see the minors and U20s have been cancelled – we are all sorry to see that happening. I think for the group, not just in Cork, but throughout the country, we have to not only embrace that change, but adapt to it.”
As Cork have not played a competitive game in almost eight months, the Rebels begin this campaign not knowing where they really stand.
“Up to recently we didn’t know if we would be playing. It (the Championship) will be different. We really don’t know how different it will be until next Saturday but at the same time, we have to embrace that change and be the best that we can be.”
The disrupted training schedule of the past few months has meant that training and preparation is different this year.
“During that time there were intermittent preps because guys were on their own for a bit,” admits Kingston. “They got back into the clubs and then they came back to us. Preparation is different. The logistics around playing are different.”
When asking about this weekend’s opponents, Waterford, the Corkman states his focus is on his team.
“My focus when preparing for a game like this is always on ourselves. Obviously, you have an eye on the opposition in terms of what they have done in the past, or in the last game. The focus has to be on ourselves. There is no other way of doing it. The Championship goes on, evolves and we are part of that. Then, we’ll be able to look at teams as to how they partake in their games. Starting out, the first game, it’s really focussing on ourselves.”
Despite the uncertainty surrounding sports this year, Kingston wasn’t always certain the All Ireland Championship would go ahead in 2020.
“Did I always think we’d get this far? Some days I did, some days I didn’t. There was apprehension, but thankfully there was more hope than anything else. You always have it at the back of your mind. The lads and ourselves were preparing on the basis that it would go ahead at some stage.
“It was a challenge yes. It was a challenge for us, a challenge for the players, a challenge for every county. There were times of course when anybody wasn’t sure. It was something you are not in control of. We’re all on the bus and we want to stay on the bus. No one of us was driving it, so therefore we weren’t really in control of our destiny.”
With a reduced season ahead, the Fountainstown man says:
“We’re absolutely thrilled that it (the Championship) is happening. No one wants to lose a year of their playing career. No one want to lose of forfeit a year of the Championship. It’s a special season, no matter what happens – it’s a special season.”