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Cork U21 manager John Meyler. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Cork U21 manager John Meyler. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
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Cork U21 boss Meyler: You never stop learning in hurling

JOHN MEYLER'S post-match interview on TG4 gleaned as much traction as Declan Dalton’s blistering penalty which won Cork a place in the Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 Hurling Championship final.

Though Dalton’s exquisite stroke deep into added-time was lauded and replayed many times, so too was Meyler’s on-screen reflection of the occasion. The Cork coach – he much prefers the term ‘coach’ to ‘manager’ – was understandably moved in front of the TV cameras following the Rebels’ dramatic 2-17 to 1-19 victory over Waterford.

Speaking on the Irish Examiner Paper Talk podcast series on Monday, Meyler revealed the pressure and emotion of a rollercoaster period for hurling in the county spilled out in that moment.

“The pressure had building if you go back even to the very first match we played against Tipperary in the senior hurling championship,” Meyler explained. “You meet a lot of people before games and what people were looking for was a performance from the team.

“Even if we were beaten by four, six or eight points they would have been happy with the performance. I met a lot of people before that Tipp match and before the Waterford game they wanted the same.

“Of course, we got consistent, back-to-back performances in those games and then we went into the Munster final against Clare and you had the minors with Denis (Ring) winning which really set the pattern for the day.

“The minor team gave the seniors that guard of honour in the tunnel before we came out. Then the seniors win and all of that raw emotion spilled out into the crowd.

“People are then saying: ‘Lads, ye’re up next. And ye need to keep the show on the road’.

“So there was a lot of pressure to win in Waterford, and especially with Waterford winning the All-Ireland U21 title the year before. So there was a lot of emotion pent up in that. Plus, the way we won with it with (Declan) Dalton scoring the penalty.

“It’s what every kid dreams about really, scoring a last-minute penalty to win an FA Cup final or an All-Ireland final. 

"I was delighted for Dalton. All of that had built up really.” 

Declan Dalton of Cork celebrates after scoring. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Declan Dalton of Cork celebrates after scoring. Picture: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Dalton was on fire that night and as he stepped up to execute the penalty you felt he was going to stitch it given the performance he was producing. 

What, however, was going through Meyler’s mind as he teed it up?

“Well, at the start of the year Declan would have been our sub goalkeeper with Patrick Collins. 

"One night, we played Limerick in a challenge match and we had a lot of players that had played matches that morning and in the afternoon.

“We knew we could play Declan out at midfield or in the forwards though if we had injured players and Shane Hurley from the Barrs could go in goal as he was in helping us as well.

“He got seven points that night in the challenge and we were kind of surprised.  Watching him then take frees and penalties in training with nobody in goal it was obvious how well he strikes the ball. He actually strikes it like a two-iron in golf so it’s hit with force.

“I said to him afterwards then that I had no doubt about him getting it. But I asked if he put a swerve on the ball and he said no. He put it away though and it was fantastic. 

"The pressure on him to score that goal was immense.  He had missed those few frees in the minor match against Limerick two or three years ago so people would kind of remind him of that, I’d imagine, so there was massive pressure on.

“Watching him, though, take those frees and penalties in training, I had no doubt as he actually drills the ball. It was a really, really good goal,” he said.

Now, however, Cork are presented with a totally different challenge. 

Limerick stand in their way of a provincial title at the Gaelic Grounds and Meyler concurs the Treaty’s performances thus far in the championship have been polished.

“We were up at the Limerick-Tipperary game and they certainly played really, really well.  Kyle Hayes, Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch, Tom Morrissey, they have all been there at senior as well for the last two or three years. So they have a much stronger footing than we have in terms of guys with senior experience.

“Now, this year, we have brought in four of the lads that have played senior but Luke (Meade) and Darragh (Fitzgibbon) are out so it falls to Mark (Coleman) and Shane (Kingston) then to play really well on Wednesday night if they can. Limerick were very impressive against Clare and that game was essentially over after 20 minutes so we know how tough it’s going to be to go down there.

“That is why we more or less played all of our challenge matches this year away from home just to get into that modus operandi.

“We played the likes of Clare, Galway and Wexford away in New Ross and that was good preparation,” Meyler stated.

Meyler has been on the coaching circuit at club and inter-county for a number of years now.

He has an abundance of coaching experience but feels the only constant is the relentless evolution of the game. The learning never stops.

“The thing you learn most is that you never stop learning,” Meyler mused. “You constantly, constantly learn. You have to constantly go to matches that other teams are playing and you must adapt. You have to adapt to different styles, different circumstances. 

"You need to understand how to coach and how to coach against tactics like, say, sweepers. The important thing is how you coach against tactics. Hurling now is like soccer with Barcelona in that you do not give the ball away. And when you have that possession you have to do something with the ball. 

"So the use of the ball is even more vital than it was in my day,” he added.