WHILE Cork’s Allianz FL Division 3 campaign is in limbo, with GAA games suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak, the season to date has been encouraging.
Five wins from five games have left Cork within touching distance of promotion, on 10 points. The impact of the returning Seán Powter has been huge. Still only 22, Powter was a ‘young footballer of the year’ nominee in 2017, but has missed most of the last two years because of injury. Now approaching full fitness, he has given Cork an extra dimension.
Powter has been used as a half-back who operates as a seventh forward when Cork face sweeper systems and his influence hasn’t been lost on Cork manager, Ronan McCarthy, who, after the recent win over Derry, summed up the impact of his Douglas clubmate on the Rebels.
“I actually think you could play him anywhere,” McCarthy said. “We’ve played him centre-forward before; he’s so dynamic and he’s a line-breaker. It doesn’t matter if it’s a packed defence: he punches holes in it.
“He has such power and even in the first-half, some of his tackling was excellent, as well. He’s a top-class inter-county player, who we’ve had to do without for the last two years and he ain’t there yet: that’s the frightening thing about it.
“We’ve had to manage him properly, but it’s brilliant to have him back.”
As a coach in Douglas schools, Eddie Murphy was responsible for many of Powter’s earliest steps. He reckons Cork could do with having “three or four” Powters now, to fill various roles on the pitch, but when Powter was a young pupil in St Columba’s, he was “totally raw, like a fish out of water.”
“It was a new game; he probably didn’t know too much about it,” Murphy said, “but in a short space of time, he had it all.
“He had great hand-to-eye co-ordination and actually nearly took to hurling better than to football. From a footballing point of view, he wanted it more; it was always going to be his game,” Murphy said.
“I would finish a session and Seán would want to stay on for another 10 minutes and I’d tell him that, if he was going to do that, to play off his left foot and he would.
“You say that to a young lad in the current age and they wouldn’t do that, but that was the way he was.”
Even allowing for that drive, having the wherewithal to bounce back from injury is not easy. Cork’s goalkeeper, Micheál Martin, said that the rest of the panel are inspired by his recovery.
“What I would say is that we are all aware of what the guys who have suffered bad injuries have gone through to get back on the pitch,” he said.
“Not just Powter, but three or four guys who have had to do one or two years of pure rehab. When you see their attitude, there’s no excuse not to show up in a positive mood for training, given what they’ve put in,” Martin said.
Murphy saw that dedication at close quarters.
“I would have a lot of dealings with Seán in my summer camps. He’s so good with the kids and they respond. Even when he was out injured, he was coming to the camps and his commitment was the same as it would be for anything else. We were so sorry for him, with the injury he had, but he kept coming back; he always had a positive outlook.
“A lot of guys would say, ‘Leave it alone, I’m trying to get back,’ or whatever, but he never let me down. He always knew he was going to get back there, because of his temperament. He’ll work away. He has a great attitude and that’s half the battle, which you realise as you get older,” Murphy said.
“We, in Douglas, have so much talent — I’ve seen them all — but, for some reason, the final hurdle isn’t there for some of them, but it is for someone like Seán. Brian Hartnett is another guy coming through who has that drive,” Murphy said.
Cork’s longest-serving player, Paul Kerrigan, points to Powter’s versatility. “He’s a player that could play anywhere, but I think the half-back line is his best position,” Kerrigan said.
“He offers something different to any other player we have: a pacey, direct scoring threat that opposition teams need to seriously keep an eye on. He’s a proven player at this level, which is a huge bonus for the team.”
What does Murphy think is Powter’s best position?
“Growing up, he was always a defender. It’s a lot easier to play facing the ball, rather than having to turn and try to run after a forward: that’s a speed-merchant. He was able to transition to both, because he had such speed.
"When I was a selector with the senior team, under Tony Leen, we discussed playing him as a forward. We put him at centre-forward in a senior league game and he did brilliantly,” Murphy said.
“He has shown that he’s as effective as a back or a forward. For me, what Cork are doing now is the best way to use him: primarily defending, but able to act as an extra forward against a defensive team.”