Inter-county players north of 30 can never be in any doubt regarding their age.

This is especially true regarding the more high-profile hurlers and footballers, as the questions, primarily from journalists, centre around the intention or otherwise to continue for another year.

The enquiries are inevitable as inter-county careers, just like the schedule, become more condensed. The average age of Kerry's All-Ireland winning team last year was just shy of 27.

For Cork’s Patrick Horgan, there was good reason for Rebel supporters to fear their ace forward may not be around in 2023 to usher in a new era under Pat Ryan.

The Glen man will turn 35 the day before Tipperary roll into Cork for the second round of games in this year’s Munster championship.

Heading into his 16th championship season, his place in the pantheon of Cork hurlers is assured. The all-time top scorer in championship hurling, Horgan has been the talisman during the biggest drought in Cork’s hurling history.

One can only hazard a guess as to how many All-Stars he would have had with a better supporting cast over the years. As it is, four is an impressive haul for someone without a Celtic Cross.

Indeed, only four Cork men have claimed more All-Stars than Horgan (Jimmy Barry-Murphy, John Fenton, Tony O'Sullivan and Ray Cummins) and on average, they have four All-Irelands each.

As well as years of service, other factors were at play.

Last April, he and his wife Ashley welcomed baby Jack into the world, while in the summer he found himself in the unusual position of being among the substitutes for the games against Antrim and Galway in the qualifiers.

By his own admission he was surprised, with former team-mate Anthony Nash saying in the aftermath of the Galway defeat that it was a decision that he didn’t agree with.

Horgan chats to supporters at half-time during last year's All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Antrim

"You start Patrick Horgan. People might think he is finished, no way is he finished," he said.

Throw in a knee problem that ruled him out of Glen's quarter-final exit, and the chatter of the poacher stepping away continued.

Not that Horgan was paying much attention. Before Christmas he revealed he would go again if required, with Ryan happily including the attacker in his 2023 plans.

Speaking at the launch of the 2023 Allianz Hurling League, the deadly free-taker said that his motivation hasn’t dimmed in any way shape or form.

"If you are not enjoying something and you keep doing it, I think that’s a bit crazy," he told RTÉ Sport.

"It’s something I always love doing, getting the gear ready, going training early, just working on trying to become a better player.

"I chat to the lads... what are they working on? What certain things do they do that helps their game? It’s all very interesting stuff and I’m in love with the preparation side of it.

"If you don’t enjoy it, you're not really going to get the full benefit out of it."

Horgan has plundered 22-516 to top the hurling championship's all-time scoring charts

When Waterford and Cork contested last year’s league decider, the narrative was that both teams, from the outset, would be well served to target early season silverware. A Waterford win would build momentum, while Cork, without league success since 1998, might prosper from coming through some difficult assignments ahead of the Munster campaign.

The Déise’s victory was quickly put into perspective with a hugely underwhelming provincial campaign, yet last year’s observation still holds for the Rebels.

The league is not as cut and thrust with a Munster campaign that is a league format, but a decent run under new management would at least propel Cork in the chasing pack.

Everybody is fighting for something

In front of the RTÉ cameras on Saturday night, Limerick first up will focus the minds. Nearly 5,000 passed through the Páirc Ui Rinn turnstiles earlier this month to see the home side edge out Tipperary in the Munster Hurling league decider, but that will have already been consigned to history.

"Fellas are very energised by the new management, and new players coming in as well, there’s a real buzz there," said Horgan.

"That’s exactly what any team wants, everyone going at it at training. You are fighting for places on the panel, you are fighting for places on the team. Everybody is fighting for something."

Limerick’s low-key approach to the league 12 months ago was retrospectively heralded as a tactical masterstroke as they eased to a third Liam MacCarthy in four years, but whatever approach, or personnel, take to the field in Páirc Ui Chaoimh, Horgan is looking forward to the challenge.

"The Cork crowd will always come down to the park and especially now that Limerick are there, there'll be a nice crowd there.

"We'll give it all we can really. That's what we've been doing so far in training and in the Munster League. We just give our max-effort. After that, a game takes on a life of its own and we just fight as long as we can."

Follow Cork v Limerick (throw-in 7.30pm Saturday) via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport or the RTÉ News app, alternatively watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, from 7.15pm. Highlights and reaction to all the weekend's action on Allianz League Sunday on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player from 9.30pm.

Live commentary and updates also on Saturday Sport and Sunday Sport, RTÉ Radio 1.