The Tony Considine column: Pressure is on ahead of Tipp rematch as Cork badly need an All-Ireland hurling title

The Tony Considine column: Pressure is on ahead of Tipp rematch as Cork badly need an All-Ireland hurling title
Brian Turnbull is chased by Kilkenny's Conor Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IN Portlaoise the weekend before last, the GAA must have been rubbing their hands that Cork were involved, otherwise they wouldn’t have had to open too many stiles going into O’Moore Park.

Cork had by far the majority of the supporters, and boy did they make some noise.

As the hurling match was on first, the football people from Cork saw it and it was a great idea to have a double-header. This creates a great atmosphere and should be the norm, especially for a big county like Cork.

Football and hurling are both played all over Cork county now, though with the football supporters mostly from west Cork and the hurling supporters mostly from the city, so it was a great chance for them to see both codes.

The hurling game, for me, never took off. Cork were nothing like the team that played in the Munster final; a lot of their players were off-form. I know there was a lot of pressure. Even in the warm-up, you could see the tension, and that warm-up went on for a long time. It was obvious that the management team were under pressure. It’s hard to play with freedom when the nerves take over.

Shane O'Regan goes past Kilkenny's Conor Flynn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Shane O'Regan goes past Kilkenny's Conor Flynn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Cork were not sharp, especially not in the first half. Only for a few players, and a poor Kilkenny team, Cork would have been in real trouble. Their forwards only got one point from play in the first half, as well as a fortuitous goal, even though it was scored by the most influential player on the pitch, Tommy O’Connell.

This man was brilliant all-through. He was all over the field. It was a one-man show, in the forwards anyway.

In the defence, Conor O’Callaghan and James Keating were solid. Sean O’Leary Hayes also hurled very well, but Ger Millerick was immense. He was on the Kilkenny danger man, Adrian Mullen, and he minded him so well while doing his other defensive duties. This guy is a top-class man marker, as he proved already against Tipperary.

Ryan Walsh, at midfield, worked very hard and got a couple of great points. But I don’t think that this Cork attack will ever be as poor again. Denis Ring knows well that this performance would not be good enough in the All-Ireland final, but I believe this is a great way to go into it. I’m sure the management will go through all that with them.

Denis Ring and selector Liam Martin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Denis Ring and selector Liam Martin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

But to win a semi-final playing poorly is a great way to go into any final.

The final is there, which everyone wanted. Tipperary demolished Wexford the following day. It just goes to prove how poor the Leinster teams were in this competition.

Make no mistake about it: the two best teams are in the final. Tipperary are the favourites, as Cork were last year. And we all know what happened then.

If this final is only half as good as the Munster final, we will be in for a hurling treat. The next couple of weeks are very important for Cork to get heads and bodies right.

I couldn’t but notice all the Cork people getting really excited about winning an U20 All-Ireland semi-final. One time, they wouldn’t have taken any notice of that, but one time is a long time ago. The expectation is high for this team and this county needs a hurling title, and every hurling man in Cork knows that.

So, Denis, no pressure!

To other matters, and mentioning titles, John Meyler stepping down has opened the way for a new manager for Cork. Managing Cork is not an easy job, as it isn’t for the other two traditional counties, Tipperary and Kilkenny. It’s a real pressure-cooker job. It’s really like managing Man United, or any of the big Premier League teams, only in this situation you can’t buy your way.

Every year that Cork fail to win an All-Ireland is a year that is not a success. Cork is the biggest county in the country GAA-wise, that is simply not good enough. 2005 was the last senior title, 2001 the last minor title, and 1998 the last U21 title. Now, that is a poor return for Cork.

Simon Kennefick and Eoin Roche chase down Evan Shefflin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Simon Kennefick and Eoin Roche chase down Evan Shefflin. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Is the manager the problem or is it the players, or is it a bit of both?

I know a lot of things happened in Cork GAA that should not have happened, in that period of time, but they happen in every county, and they get on with it. Some counties even go on to win All-Irelands, despite that kind of trouble.

The last successful manager in Cork was John Allen and the man before him Donal O’Grady, and before that was Jimmy Barry Murphy. Three real strong characters, with their own minds and their own ideas.

Right now, I cannot think of any Cork manager, at any level, who has been a success in recent times, and we are talking All-Irelands here. There isn’t any player now, either, who holds an All-Ireland medal, so why, then, should players have an input in deciding the next manager? 

In any business, the CEO wouldn’t have to be approved by the staff, so why the issue with the next Cork manager appointment?

Cork should appoint a committee of the last three men who brought All-Irelands to Cork. Those three have done it and they know what it takes, both from a management and from a player point of view, and the three men should be John Allen, Donal O’Grady, and Jimmy-Barry Murphy. 

Let them do the interviewing and recommend to the county board and then let the board decide, and not the players, who the best man for the job is. They will make the right choice.

Stand by that man through his duration. That is how big this job is for Cork hurling. They have got to get it right this time.

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