THERE will be those who say that #2024, the five-year plan for Cork football launched yesterday, has come too late, that the county board have waited until things reached their lowest ebb before doing something.
Certainly, remedial action could have been started before now, but it’s jumping the gun a bit to say that things are rotten in the state of Cork football.
Being a comfortably Division 2 side and a distant second-best in Munster is not the worst state of affairs – it may seem like rock-bottom but there is still a way to travel.
Had an admittedly specific set of results transpired in the final round of league games last year, Cork could have been starting 2019 in Division 3, and, while it was overshadowed by subsequent defeats to Kerry and Tyrone, the Munster semi-final win over Tipperary last May was a step in the right direction. It was a comprehensive victory in a game many felt was too close to call beforehand.
However, these are just crumbs of consolation and it is clear something had to be done in order to restore Cork to the levels of the turn of the decade.
In 2010, when Cork won the senior All-Ireland and reached the minor final, there looked to be a bright future but it was not capitalised upon.
The three young stars on the 2010 team were Colm O’Neill, Aidan Walsh and Ciarán Sheehan. Yet none of them will wear a Cork football jersey again.
Paul Kerrigan is the only survivor from the Sam Maguire-winning side but there’s no point even using that as a point of comparison – for example, only half a dozen or so remain from the team of 2015, just four years ago.
Expecting an overnight turnaround is folly, as there is just too much to be done.
This new plan envisages a five-year project and, with county chairperson Tracey Kennedy having been joined by Conor Counihan, Graham Canty and Brian Cuthbert, it is one that has been well-thought-out, but even that may prove to be too short a timespan to generate the momentum needed.
Nevertheless, it is an admirable document, with measurable and achievable goals rather than being littered with aspirational aims.
In the foreword, Kennedy writes: “Some of the strategies outlined below are easily implemented and rooted in common sense, while other aspects of the plan are radical and will require a significant shift in thinking, but everything proposed here has been carefully considered in terms of its long-term benefit to Cork football, and indeed to Cork GAA.”
All aspects have been examined and the principals cannot be accused of cutting corners.
To that end, it’s noteworthy that the document clearly includes a mention of ‘Corkness’, that inbuilt confidence so recognisable to others but perhaps more associated with Cork hurling than football. Instilling that, and ensuring a follow-on increase in support, is a good starting point.
The relationship between Cork football and the public is a strange one – by and large, the people don’t attend games, barring the near-annual clash with Kerry, but the right of criticism is reserved, almost a sense of being let down again and again: “They do this to me, so why should I support them?”
If the public buy into the new approach and show patience, there is some hope of success.
It is to be welcomed that the plan identifies a number of appointments rather than simply expecting existing personnel to add this large project to already-busy workloads.
A project co-ordinator will oversee the implementation of the plan, while the high-performance director and talent development manager will be responsible for taking a wide-angle view of the county panels and development squads.
It has long been acknowledged that a county of Cork’s size needs more games development administrators (GDAs) and this number will increase, while a junior administrator at Rebel Óg level and a media liaison officer will also fulfil key roles.
Added to this is the fact that new county board secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan will be involved in ensuring the plan comes to fruition.
Two and a half years ago, he published a 25-point plan for the future of Cork GAA and he will recognise some of the elements of that.
Having everybody faced in the same direction is a good starting point, but it’s important to realise that the hard work is only beginning.
Words in a document will only have power if they are followed through. For all our sakes, we must hope that that is what happens.