OVER the past couple of months we have been selecting what we considered to be the top players, the top teams both at national and local level, that sort of exercise.
That filled a nice gap while the fields remained empty and playing and training was prohibited.
Now, thankfully, that period of inactivity has ended and we’ll soon have plenty of championship action to dissect.
However, here in Cork we are not there yet, just a short few weeks to go and in the interim period, we decided to select our best hurling managers.
Over the past 20 years or so the influence of the manager has become huge, in many cases he has nearly become as big as the team that he is managing.
Here in Cork we have been very fortunate to have had outstanding men at the helm, some of them going on to be very successful, as well, in other counties.
One such person is Justin McCarthy, probably one of the game’s greatest students, one of the stars of the 1966 team and a man whose career was seriously curtailed after an accident in 1969.
He made a major contribution both inside and outside the county and he will be forever remembered in Waterford for ending a long famine back in 1992 on an emotional day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh against Tipperary.
He spread his gospel far and wide, somebody who would be considered an icon in the Glens of Antrim.
As far as the most successful of all hurling managers goes, the task of selecting him was as clear as night follows day.
It was never a contest, Brian Cody is top of the pile by a country mile after leading Kilkenny to 11 All-Ireland titles.
Similar to Alex Ferguson with Manchester United, that tally will never be equalled.
In fact, there are similarities between the two, insofar as they were the boss, no-nonsense people who were simply the best at what they did.
Davy Fitzgerald might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but his managerial achievements have to be recognised.
In fact, is he the only manager to be successful in three different counties, his own Banner County and the All-Ireland win of 2013, a Munster title with Waterford and a Leinster title with Wexford.
That is some going and, again, if a lot of people don’t fancy the tactics that he embraces, they have been successful.
Of course, Fitzgerald was a key playing figure in Ger Loughnane’s winning Clare teams of 1995 and 1997 after a lifetime in the wilderness.
Before that 1995 triumph, Clare had been also-rans for so long, that some people believed they would never again be successful.
But Loughnane changed all that, changed the mindset of the players at his disposal and in Mike McNamara and Tony Considine, he had two tried and trusted mentors.
He assembled a group of players that became household names to this day, some of the finest of their era.
Back in the 1960s the role of the then so-called manager was minimal compared to what it is today, but the name of Jim ‘Tough’ Barry will always be associated with that team of 1966.
Fr Bertie Troy was seen as more of a coach than a manager, but he was a major contributor to the Cork three-in-a-row team of 1976-78.
The players on those teams would not be slow to point out his influence.
Jimmy Barry-Murphy will always be an icon here on Leeside for his playing days, but leading Cork in his managerial role in 1999 was a huge achievement.
Fourteen years later he was very close to repeating the feat before Clare ended that dream in the All-Ireland final replay of 2013.
Donal O’Grady and John Allen were the last two men to guide Cork to the McCarthy Cup and between them they assembled a terrific group of hurlers who deserved to win at least one more title.
Both coached outside the county as well and impacted there as well.
And then there was the Canon, Fr Michael O’Brien, surely one that ranks right at the top of the list and his achievement with the 1990 team was phenomenal when one considers that a year previous Cork had been taken out meekily by Waterford.
He had that unique ability to get the best out of some average players, getting into their heads that they could be a lot better and were as good as anybody else Going back to the 1980s, the name of Cyril Farrell stands very tall with the Galway winning teams of 1987 and 88.
That was a superb Galway team and Farrell got the best out of them.
Liam Griffin brought Wexford to their last All-Ireland victory in 1996 after they had been without one for so long.
Even to this day, his influence on Slaneyside remains huge.
Liam Sheedy has done it twice with Tipp, in 2010 and last season and his task now will for the county to put back-to-back titles together, something that has not been done since in the Premier County since the 1960s.
Dermot Healy had great success with Offaly and John Kiely has Limerick in the position to regain the title that they won two years ago.
At the end of the day, it’s the ultimate responsibility of the players outside the white line, but without the guidance of the aforementioned, those achievements might not have happened.
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