THE name of Larry Tompkins is synonymous with Gaelic Football on Leeside.
Through achievements such as being on the 1989 and 1990 Cork All-Ireland winning teams, his place in Cork football folklore has been long secured.
When I spoke with Tompkins at the launch of a casual shirt range to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Cork GAA All Ireland double, our football conversation was engaging and insightful.
To this present day, Tomkins remains a keen follower of all things Gaelic Football. Based on 2019 as a whole, he feels that the initial signs are encouraging and after a few difficult years this decade for Cork football, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel.
“I just think that Cork have always will always loads of talent. I think it is just of matter of hopefully players can focus in well and be committed.
“When you are in at this level, it must come from within and I think a lot of players just have to dig deep.
“We have seen there during the summer. I was very impressed with the Cork seniors this year.
“From the tail end of the National League and right through the summer, I watched their games and there was massive improvements. Then you see two All-Irelands coming to Cork in U20 and Minor.
“So there will never be a problem with talent I think. I think it is just application and commitment, having those type of leaders on the field that you need to drive it on.
“Overall, I think that Cork Football is in a good place and hopefully they can nurture all that good talent and drive on from here.”
The Division 3 League campaign provides extra attention from a Cork perspective in 2020. There is a lot at stake as the Rebels can also book their place in the All-Ireland SFC if they promoted.
If Cork do not finish in the top two in Division 3 , they will have to beat Kerry in next summer’s Munster SFC semi-final if they want to compete in the All-Ireland championship or else the Rebels have to face into the new Tier 2 football championship. Tompkins feels that although the league campaign may not be as straightforward as some people may suggest, it provides the Cork management with a good opportunity to blood young talent into the squad.
“Division 3 is not going to be easy because you are going to have tough games. Every team is going to be competitive. You are going to find that some teams are going to be a little more advanced training wise then other teams.
“But Cork’s main objective is take every game seriously and hopefully try to get promotion from it. I’d be hoping that a lot of these young players will be brought in early into the setup.
“What I mean by that they need to be brought in and developed at a young age, from 17 and 18 and into the Senior squad.
“Giving them the fitness regimes from the strength and conditioning training that is there now.
“If you do that, you’ll find that when those lads are 20 years of age then, they are ready for action and are serious players.”
The Cork County Board have made the headlines in recent weeks surrounding their reported losses of €559,058 for 2019 and also the large debt on the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Tompkins feels however that Gaelic Football will continue to get the care and attention it needs.
“I think there should be no problem. You have Conor Counihan in there now, you have Aidan O’Connell there as well in Strength and Conditioning and he has plenty of experience in relation to his work with Munster.
“Look, there should be no problem in going in the right direction.
“It is just now about everybody getting down and working hard, working as a team. Hopefully then things will develop.”
On a general level and in relation to what is a realistic target for Cork Football to aspire to over the coming years, Tompkins feels with the players that are there and the underage talent that is can potentially be developed, the future could look quite promising over the next decade.
“What you are going to see is you are going to see the likes of Kerry I think taking over the reins from the likes of Dublin. I think that Kerry are the frontrunning team. But I think what you are going to see over the next couple of years is the biggest challenge to them is going to be Cork.
“That is where I see Cork, that they are going to be there or thereabouts. I think they have just got to develop these young players. I think that the Minor squad this year had four or five exceptional players and I think the U20 squad had a number of good young fellas.
“But just think you have to develop them right and nurture them right, really train them well. Give them the experience, don’t just bring them in for six months to a year and get rid of them.
“I just think they need to work on them for two to three years. The biggest thing you are looking for from these guys is application and attitude.
“If the young lads apply themselves right, I think that they are as good as any talent in the country.”