'For Liverpool and the Cork hurlers, you're looking for honesty and work-rate'

'For Liverpool and the Cork hurlers, you're looking for honesty and work-rate'
John Meyler, former Cork manager, got to spend a day as the assistant to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp for charity. Picture: Larry Cummins

JURGEN Klopp is on the brink of guiding Liverpool to a first league title in 30 years. 

Two seasons ago, former Cork manager John Meyler came close to bridging a gap to 2005 when Liam McCarthy was last brought back to the South Mall. 

That campaign saw the round-robin format introduced for hurling and Meyler embraced the regular diet of Munster championship games. At the time, he cited his son David's professional career with Sunderland, Hull and Reading, as proof that players prefer to be playing games rather than enduring lengthy breaks between matches.

The Rebels were unbeaten in retaining their provincial crown in 2018, before falling to a devastating loss to subsequent All-Ireland champions Limerick. The following month, Meyler got to act as Klopp's assistant manager, in a Liverpool-Celtic charity game at Parkhead.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. Picture: Nick Potts/PA Wire.

The link-up, which came through David's successful bid in a charity auction, saw the two big personalities share ideas. Klopp was keen to learn more about hurling, a sport he was already aware of; John Meyler mined information about being a professional manager.

"The first thing we were talking about was he was interested in my hurling background," Meyler told Off The Ball. "He knew about hurling and he had a fascination with it - he had a huge interest in it and the speed of it."

They compared the Cork hurlers and Liverpool squad. We assume for Mo Salah you can read Patrick Horgan and Bobby Firmino is their Seamie Harnedy. 

"I said, 'you're probably playing two at the back, six in midfield, and two up front: no-one is marking anybody.' Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander, they're nearly two wingers as distinct from two full-backs.

"I said to him about the emphasis that we had at the time on the two wing-forwards for Cork, Daniel Kearney and Luke Meade, that they were working up and down the channels.

"It's much the same with tactics. You're looking for honesty and work-rate.

Luke Meade of Cork in action against Kyle Hayes and Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Luke Meade of Cork in action against Kyle Hayes and Gearóid Hegarty of Limerick. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

"We started off talking about analysis, statistics, and GPS, the high performance. I was more interested in that, how he was measuring Liverpool. We were talking about the work-rate, discipline, and the speed of the game."

Liverpool, like any top soccer club, are able to break down the game in minute detail. The backroom teams in modern GAA dig deep into stats in a similar fashion, looking for an edge.  

"It was fascinating from that point of view, and the number of people he had working for him in high performance at Liverpool. He had instant access to information.

"You picked up from him about attention to detail and the culture of that. It was fascinating, the ins and outs of it.

"He was questioning me on hurling and the tactics of hurling, so he was trying to find out things like that whereas I was trying to question him about the tactics of Liverpool."

Meyler explained to Off the Ball one obvious difference between professional and amateur competitions.

"I said, 'by the way, Jurgen, how many players from Liverpool have you playing for you? I think it was one, Trent Alexander-Arnold.

I said, 'I have 35 players from Cork in the Cork team so you've a huge advantage. If I want a centre-forward or full-forward, I can't go and buy him. If I like someone from Waterford or Tipperary, I can't take them. I have to generate somebody from within the under-age structure'.

"He was questioning me, how you do that? I said that you have to nurture talent, as much you have to nurture talent through the academy. There is a different emphasis. If he needs somebody, he just goes and buys them."

The question is can Meyler, a hurling fanatic whose as likely to be spotted on the bank in Ballinlough watching a junior B match as down Páirc Uí Chaoimh for a senior championship clash, persuade Klopp to come to Cork over for a game?

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