THE nostalgia waves keep on rolling.
All the lookbacks over lockdown have been replaced by actual live games in the last couple of months and still the significance of the 1990 double in the interviews/podcasts/books this last few months have been impossible to ignore.
It was still a little jarring to be reminded then last weekend of another milestone from the past, as various Cork players recalled the All-Ireland win of 2010 on its 10-year anniversary.
Thirty years from the double seems another lifetime yet it’s always been easier to place in the grand scheme of Cork GAA.
Ten years from winning that All-Ireland feels different now and there is something reassuring that these achievements have brought the right sort of perspective with time.
The double was very special then but if there was a suggestion it might be happening more often in the years to follow, reality has been different.
Cork footballers don’t generally play four All-Ireland finals in a row. Dual players at that level are unlikely to be seen again.
It might have given a whole generation a skewed idea of what it is to follow Cork GAA, this expectation that summers like that come around naturally.
2010 has found its place similarly, where player like Graham Canty and Daniel Goulding can sound a little more at ease with winning an All-Ireland than they had been in the middle of the pursuit.
Look we can all get a bit carried away with legacy and the need for players to constantly do and win more to prove themselves properly.
Liverpool aren’t a great team until they win the Premier League more than once, that sort of thinking. I recall being in a Kerry dressing-room after they won the 2007 All-Ireland where maybe the second question asked of Darragh Ó Sé (after winning an All-Ireland final against Cork) was about his thoughts about three-in-a-row – he was taken aback.
And there was certainly a narrative with that Cork team of say 2007 to 2013 that, in the bluntest sense, there ought to have been more All-Ireland titles than one and that it was an underperformance in some way in falling short.
This came from players too by the way, purposely or not. Any Cork player who was involved at the time generally repeated the line that they weren’t happy or contented with one All-Ireland, that they felt it as a flaw in their record.
For a few years, it became taken for granted that every Cork player of that era would proclaim a grievance to finish with just one All-Ireland and ponderings of what went wrong were endless. Now the feeling is we may have overplayed the deficit. Joe Kernan’s Armagh won one All-Ireland. Ditto Donegal under McGuiness. Mayo never did.
That Cork team get little credit for changing the game and yet players and management from the counties who dominated afterwards (Mayo, Donegal, Dublin) all referenced the wake-up call of facing their pure physicality and running power.
Canty mentioned the small details of improvements necessary to do what they did and that moved them on year by year until eventually what they did was enough.
Goulding referenced the work done on frees that made the difference in that All-Ireland final.
Ger O’Sullivan (selector) wondered if the group could have come back again if they hadn’t won that 2010 final though Canty reckons they’d have gone again because that’s what they did anyway.
All mentioned what happened in the years afterwards as a reasonable precaution not to take any Cork team reaching finals, winning provincial titles or national leagues as part of the norm for Cork football.
That group dragged everything from themselves to achieve what they did in the end. There was no magic turning point or change, just a constant look for an extra tiny detail.
On the flip side, there probably is a difference in the levels of obsession and motivation that separates the really good elite players from the top level of greatness.
You know, those players and team who can find some drive to relentlessly go again game after game, to seek new challenges to make themselves improve over and over – we’re thinking Man Utd under Ferguson, the Cork ladies footballers under Eamonn Ryan, this Dublin era, various Kerry and Kilkenny teams over the years.
In the Michael Jordan documentary you could see how varying external factors (criticism from media, new teams/players challenging the Bulls/ Jordan) along with the quest to be seen as the best of all time created new dynamics all the time to allow the players embrace challenges.
We’ve always wondered about teams creating conflict or causes from nothing but it can sometimes just be that little push they need to get the best from themselves one more time.
It’s hardly a coincidence that some of them are still going strong either.
In fact, there was something eerie last weekend where Donncha O’Connor and Daniel Goulding both rolled the clock back with matchwinning performances in the local championships pretty much ten years to the day since doing the same thing at Croke Park.
O’Connor hit 0-5 for Duhallow in a one-point win over Valley Rovers and Goulding hit 0-9 in Éire Óg’s thrashing of St Michael’s; that’s exactly the same tallies they got against Down in the All-Ireland final.
That sort of ongoing effect is in keeping with the influence of that 2010 group overall. Noel O’Leary is still driving Cill na Martra on in their quest to go through the divisions.
John Miskella, Paddy Kelly, Michael Shields, John Hayes
were all key players for their clubs in winning senior county titles for a first time or after a long drought.
Paul Kerrigan might be the most decorated player in club football here in Cork and is still leading Nemo year after year on the field.
Off the field, Conor Counihan is the director of football here, leading the development of the next and current wave of players throughout the county. Their legacy shouldn’t be in question really. It might just have taken time to realise.