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Many fans would love to see a former star like Seán Óg Ó hAilpín involved with a Cork team. Picture: Des Barry.
Many fans would love to see a former star like Seán Óg Ó hAilpín involved with a Cork team. Picture: Des Barry.
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Cork hurling now needs a mix of coaching nous and toughness

THERE'S a lot of work to be done to drive the Cork hurlers towards a long-overdue All-Ireland, while at the same time the raw materials for success are there.

That reads like a contradiction but, despite this season's disappointing exit at the hands of Kilkenny, the Rebels will be contenders for Liam McCarthy in 2020. They weren't good enough to make it to this All-Ireland final but will be among the seven teams – this year's semi-finalists, Cork, Clare and Galway – who could in 12 months.

That's with a fresh approach. Last weekend's games were played at a ferocity Cork haven't managed in the modern era.

There are a host of names being mentioned for the post vacated by John Meyler – Kieran Kingston, Ger Cunningham, Donal Óg Cusack, Diarmuid O'Sullivan, Pat Ryan, Tomás Mulcahy and Denis Ring among the notable options. As keen students of Cork hurling, they'll have seen the problems in recent knockout games.

Donal Óg with Eoin and Alan Cadogan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Donal Óg with Eoin and Alan Cadogan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Glaring issues in terms of a lack of physicality in attack and a lack of manic aggression in the middle third left the Cork defence exposed in all the important matches this summer aside from the Limerick victory. And even then that wasn't in Croke Park, where Cork have only pulled off two wins – over Antrim and Dublin – to go with 10 defeats and two draws and since the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final.

It's not the venue is the concern, it's that Cork hurling isn't equipped to dog out results when the stakes are at their highest. It's mental frailty as much as a hurling concern.

Ben O'Connor.
Ben O'Connor.

Whoever is appointed to the most important job in Cork sport will immediately target those areas for improvement. With Patrick Horgan, Alan Cadogan and Seamus Harnedy up front and All-Stars Mark Coleman and Darragh Fitzgibbon on board, Cork already have the nucleus of a fine side.

The last two managers each secured a Munster title and Meyler departs with the Cork squad in a relatively good place. Leeside underage teams have been far competitive in recent years without breaking their All-Ireland hoodoo and compared to the winter of 2015 when Kingston replaced Jimmy Barry-Murphy there is a deeper pool of talent available.

It would be a help if the U20s get the better of Kilkenny in this Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final and then defeat Tipp or Wexford in the decider. There hasn't been an U21 triumph since 1998 or even a minor since 2001 and bridging that gap would give every one of the Leeside hurling faithful a lift.

John Meyler.
John Meyler.

It's too early yet to say who is best fixed to replace Meyler but what is certain is a top-class set-up featuring a blend of the quality coaching talent and former All-Ireland winners will be critical.

Paudie and Kevin Murray have built their reputations in winning camogie All-Irelands, while Kevin has assisted Billy Morgan with UCC's Sigerson Cup footballers too. Jamie Wall has been involved in Fitzgibbon Cup glory at Mary I. Pat Mulcahy has cut his teeth with CIT.

Jamie Wall.
Jamie Wall.

Members of 2004-2005 All-Ireland winning axis like Ben O'Connor, in Charleville, Seán Óg hAilpín, with his native Piarsaigh, Ronan Curran, managing the Barrs, and Tom Kenny, at UCC, have cut their teeth at various levels.

Cian O'Neill has just finished a run as Kildare football manager but also worked with the Tipp hurlers and Mayo and Kerry footballers and is employed for a number of years in CIT. Jerry Wallace, who was with Cork in the mid-noughties, has a wealth of experience since with Limerick and Antrim since and is a power station worth of positive energy. 

It won't just be about who the new Cork manager is but what type of structure he'll have around him.

That's not just for the senior gig, the minor and U20 management backroom appointments must be coordinated too.

The county board is currently recruiting a High-Performance Manager and they will a big say. A bit of joined-up thinking will be vital and post-strike politics should be left out of the decision-making. Whatever level, Donal Óg Cusack and Ger Cunningham should be with Cork teams.

Ger Cunningham and Joe Canning at a Bord Gais Energy U20 launch.
Ger Cunningham and Joe Canning at a Bord Gais Energy U20 launch.

Having excelled with the Dublin footballers, Gary Keegan was a consultant for the Cork hurlers in 2017 and '18, our best seasons this decade. The importance of filling that position shouldn't be underestimated.

Meyler, his selectors Fraggie Murphy and Donal O'Mahony deserve huge praise for what they put in. Whoever comes in after them has a fine base to start from.