Countdown to the minor All-Ireland: Cork boss has a special connection to Galway football

Countdown to the minor All-Ireland: Cork boss has a special connection to Galway football
Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

FOR Cork minor football manager, Bobbie O'Dwyer, there's an even greater appeal to Sunday's All-Ireland final because of their opponents, Galway.

It's quite a journey from Urhan in the Beara peninsula to Tuam in Co Galway with no obvious links between the two, but the AIB Senior Manager ended up going to secondary school there. And it's no ordinary school either.

“I went to St Jarlath's. My brother, Rory, captained the school to win an All-Ireland in 1982. I'd have huge respect for Galway football.

“Their manager is Donal Ó Fatharta, who I regard as one of the top minor managers in the country.

“I have great time for them. I like the way they play their football. It will be a big challenge and we will have to be up for it.

“Galway are a good team who beat the All-Ireland champions and favourites in Kerry in the semi-final.

“We played them twice, one win apiece, during the year, so Galway are a team we know well,” O'Dwyer recalled recently.

Both in business and coaching, he's much travelled, having spent 10 years in London, moving at 21 and playing most of his adult football over there.

And O'Dwyer has picked up valuable experience in managing O'Donovan Rossa, Macroom, Legion in Killarney and his own club in Urhan, who are celebrating a Beara junior title from last weekend.

He also believes there's a connection between business and sport. “It does help in that you're used to bringing a team with you though I use the word manager loosely.

“On the people side of it, we are all trained, whether it be sales, the analytical side, marketing, whatever the skill set, but the biggest challenge you're dealing with is handling people.

“So, I suppose it does transfer quite comfortably from business to sport.” 

That Cork are appearing on the biggest day of the season would have been the furthest thing in their minds, when starting their campaign against Kerry at the start of May.

Cork suffered a 16-point hammering by the six-a-row chasing All-Ireland champions in a rude awakening for everyone.

“What happened the first night against Kerry was an experience for all of us and it's nice to have moved on from that.

“We've been involved with these lads since U14 in one form or another and we knew the quality that was in the group.

“I'm like a broken record now saying four or five of the players who started the semi-final weren't available that night and Kerry gave a performance that we learned an awful lot from.

“It's said you learn a lot from defeat than in victory and we did learn a lot that night.” 

Cork had only a week to pick themselves up from the ground and get ready for the must-win game against Clare in Ennis.

Defeat would have signalled 'season over' while victory would practically have guaranteed a place in the Munster final and entry to the All-Ireland series. The stakes couldn't have been higher.

Somehow Cork found inner-strength and reserves of self-belief to fashion a 3-9 to 0-14 victory.

“When you get a whacking like that it really tests the character of everybody, players and management, and you're trying to lift your jaw off the table. It's difficult.

“What brought it home was our visit to the Clare dressing-room after the game because they were absolutely devastated.

“I was talking to their manager and they couldn't believe that our fellows were able to perform the way they did after the Kerry game.

“It's great testament to the players and the rest of the management that we had only a week to recover and still managed a good win.

“One of the pluses of this year is that the lads have been able to perform in the must-win games.” 

Kieran O’Sullivan is knocked off balance by Ryan O’Donovan. Picture: Dan Linehan
Kieran O’Sullivan is knocked off balance by Ryan O’Donovan. Picture: Dan Linehan

Kerry duly ended Clare's campaign in the concluding game in Munster's round-robin to set-up a re-match with Cork in the final and while Kerry won again, this time the margin was down to a goal, 3-14 to 2-14.

Cork hit back in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Ulster champions, Monaghan, winning by 3-19 to 2-10 in Tullamore before clipping Mayo's wings by 4-12 to 1-13 in the semi-final.

“It helps of course when you know your squad and still you're always looking for those uncut diamonds out there. And they are out there.

“You write to every club at the start of the year and you ask them to nominate players.

“You work with them, but it's still an advantage to know what you have.

You begin to understand their character and how they develop as players, particularly how they develop as people.

“It might have been part of a greater plan to take them into minor. We knew we would be with them for a few years and it could lead anywhere after that.” 

Now that Cork are in their first final in nine years, it's all about repeating the last triumph back in 2000.

“We're going up to win the match. There's no other area. But it's all about the performance.

“Whether we win or lose that is not going to define them as individuals. We work with the boys to ensure a performance is given.

“I stress, however, it's one part of their character. When we spoke to the lads at the year we highlighted three things when we're trying to develop a player.

“We look at their attitude. What is their commitment like. We look at their humility, their ability to link in with the team and the understanding that team trumps the individual.

“Once they fit into that category and all our buys do we have found them to be super people. Not all of them are going to play senior football for Cork, but the hope is they all become top class young people."

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