UNSURPRISINGLY, the ancient dictum that one should never go back was put to Kieran Kingston in last week’s press conference unveiling him as the new Cork senior hurling manager.
It’s a case of ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old, old boss,’ in this case, with Kingston having preceded John Meyler, whom he is now succeeding.
However, even in that question last Wednesday, there was a qualifier in that Liam Sheedy was referenced, the Tipperary man having led his county to the All-Ireland in his first year back in charge after a nine-year hiatus.
“They say never go back, they say lots of things but you don’t always do them!” Kingston said, and to some degree it’s understandable as he is in good company in Cork managers in having come back for more. Hearteningly, quite a few of them did well in their second stints.
The stand-out example in rugby is Declan Kidney, who led Munster to European glory in 2006 and 2008, having guided the province to the final in his first term. In soccer, Cork City’s first two league titles, in 1993 and 2005, were under the leadership of managers in their second terms, Noel O’Mahony and Damien Richardson respectively.
And in GAA, there is certainly no shortage of examples readily to hand. In football, Billy Morgan is the beacon when it comes to Cork and he actually had three stints in charge. The first of these was as player-manager in 1981, albeit without selection privileges, and the year ended with Munster final defeat to Kerry, as so many others did.
Following a spell working in the US, Morgan was back in the autumn of 1986 and it was to lead to the county’s most successful sustained spell – All-Ireland wins in 1989 and 1990 as well as final appearances in 1987, 1988 and 1993.
Morgan stepped down in 1996 but, seven years later, after Larry Tompkins’ tenure ended, the Nemo man was back and he set about laying the foundation for the All-Ireland win of 2010, including a final appearance in 2007.
On the hurling side, Kingston will be the fixth or sixth man to return as manager, depending on which sources are correct.
The one around which there is doubt is Fr Michael O’Brien. While it’s undeniable that he was in charge for the 1990 All-Ireland win, he could also have a claim to the Centenary win of 1984. According to press reports at the time, he was listed as joint-manager along with Justin McCarthy but in his autobiography McCarthy is at pains to point out that ‘the Canon’ was just a selector and the misconception arose from a throwaway line by McCarthy about the cleric giving him a hand.
McCarthy himself was in his second stint then, having been coach, but not selector, when Cork won Munster in 1975. In 1984, McCarthy succeeded Johnny Clifford, who took over again when McCarthy’s term ended following the 1985 championship.
Clifford led Cork to another All-Ireland in 1986 and he would be back for a third stint in the mid-90s, replacing the Canon in a period in which Cork struggled.
Gerald McCarthy, who had taken Cork to the 1982 All-Ireland final, was trainer during the Canon’s 1990-93 tenure and had been expected to take over as manager. However, after Clifford got the nod again, McCarthy would have to wait another 13 years to get the job, having managed Waterford in the interim.
When Clifford left for the final time after the 1995 loss to Clare, it was to Jimmy Barry-Murphy Cork turned and, despite a couple of frustrating years, he brought the glory days back in 1999.
He couldn’t repeat the trick in his second coming from 2012-15, though Cork were seconds away from claiming the 2013 title.
An All-Ireland semi-final was as far as Kingston took Cork in 2017, having claimed the Munster title before that. Now, he will seek to build on that, armed with more experience than before.
He and Cork will hope that further proof is provided that, sometimes, you should indeed go back.