Light at end of the tunnel... Cork football is back on track

Light at end of the tunnel... Cork football is back on track
Conor Corbett helped the minors to a great win over Monaghan. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

SLOWLY, but surely Cork football is beginning to feel good about itself again.

Of course, it has to be baby steps at a time, but there's no denying the game is heading in the right direction.

Two under-age wins over Ulster champions in Tullamore on Sunday have helped create a feel-good factor to supplement the improvement in the senior side.

An U20 team facing a crack Dublin in the All-Ireland final and the minors facing Mayo in an All-Ireland semi-final have Cork football fans in an upbeat mood and optimistic about the future.

There is a cautionary note, though, because history has told us over and over again that success at youth level is no guarantee at senior.

What it does provide though is the potential to be successful and for Cork football at the moment that will do fine.

Keith Ricken, the U20 manager, can see that improvement since taking over the reigns at a late hour earlier in the year.

He dismisses the oft use phrase, snowflake generation, to describe the current crop after watching his charges hit back from seven points in arrears to win by two, 2-17 to 1-18, against a shell-shocked Tyrone.

“Every generation is different. These guys will die with their boots on and there is no evidence to say they will do anything different.

“We have seen it all year with these lads. They're maturing which is what we want.

“My job is a development, developing young lads to try and make the next step up.

“What we have now is young men and they're gaining experience which is very important.

“They're not children anymore and they have to learn and be able to do these things themselves.

“I'd rather do it in a better fashion, but I'm proud of them anyway, whether they win, lose or draw because the way they've gone about their business all year is fantastic,” he said.

Little moments combine to create a bigger effect. Like the time corner-back Paul Ring dispossessed danger-man Darragh Canavan just in front of the Cork dugout during an important phase in the second half.

And when centre-back Sean Meehan decided to go on a gallop through the heart of the opposition to win a free, which Cathal O'Mahony converted.

They were just two of several up-lifting incidents which assisted Cork in turning the game around along with the introduction of Eanna O'Hanlon, Jack Murphy, Fionn Herlihy and Mark Hodnett.

Jack Murphy is fouled.
Jack Murphy is fouled.

It's clear reputations count for very little in Ricken's management team and what has gone before is also discounted because it's all about the now.

And they have shown themselves to be quick and decisive in their actions on the sidelines, when it comes to making changes.

Ricken explained their thinking about formulating the 24-strong match-day panel, which saw two changes from that announced, O'Hanlon and Diarmuid Phelan.

“The bench constantly moves because fellows are putting their hands up in training and in our internal games.

“We never have the same bench, horses for courses type of approach.

“We are a big county and we're trying to utilise that. We have very good footballer and to be honest we'd disappointed if we couldn't find a good bench,” he said.

The game produced a hectic finish, five minutes into added-on time, after 14-man Tyrone, to their credit, hit back to move two points clear again after Cork outscored them by 1-6 to 0-2 in a 15-minute burst.

Cork also ended a man short after Meehan, first, and then substitute Jack McCarthy were shown black cards by Antrim referee Sean Laverty in a hectic conclusion.

Meehan was replaced by Shane Hickey, but Cork had already used all their substitutes by the time McCarthy was cautioned though Ricken defended his player.

“Jack's black card was harsh, I thought. It looked like shoulder to shoulder challenge, but in fairness to the referee he has to act in real time, just like the rest of us,” he said.

Both will be available for the final.

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