Cork's fighting spirit in their win over Limerick showed that the Allianz Hurling League is still important to teams, believes Niall Moran.
The Rebels fought back from eight points down at half-time on Saturday night to pip the All-Ireland champions at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Limerick's third championship triumph in a row after an underpowered league campaign last year led to suggestions that rivals might mirror their approach in 2023, but Moran saw little evidence of that on the opening weekend.
"It finished up a really good game of hurling and puts paid to this notion that the league doesn't matter to teams," the former Treaty forward told 2fm's Game On.
"Cork coming down the home stretch and getting the points, that meant a lot to them. They'll be thrilled to win a tight game.
"When you're trying to climb your way back up the ladder, every victory matters.
"It was very impressive. [Eoin] Downey did very well, Ciaran Joyce added to his reputation again.
"But Limerick will be pleased with a lot of what went on too. They won't be overly disappointed because they know they have a lot more to come."
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Cork's tackle/block count rose from 23 in the first half to 41 in the second.
But for Moran, saying the Rebels just worked harder is an over-simplification of the art of collective defending.
"At inter-county level, all these teams are working hard," he said. "Just sometimes the unity in how they work is the difference.
"So there was a more co-ordinated work rate in the second half from Cork. It's not as simple as saying they came out and worked a lot harder. They worked a lot harder together.
"It's actually a skill set. You might have an underage player who was really good and so much better than everybody going up along. You'll find that skill set being neglected because it wasn't required, his might have been shooting or whatever else.
"Guys who might not have been as strong and had to rely on the ability to tackle, people will say 'he has a great work-rate' because maybe he was deficient in other areas and that was a skill set he focused on."
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Moran believes that the teams who have worked harder on winning possession in the middle third will reap the benefits.
"Limerick are very co-ordinated in how they close down space, mark the sidelines," he said. "Other teams might not be as proficient, they find themselves isolated and then it looks as if you're not working hard enough if players are slipping you quickly.
"One of the themes of all the games was the amount of teams that are just running the ball through the middle.
"The middle third is crucial and just strewn with bodies. So it's those that are co-ordinated in that defensive and attacking element of it that look best."