McCarthy's steady hand is guiding Cork in the right direction

McCarthy's steady hand is guiding Cork in the right direction
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

YOU wouldn’t want to be too sensitive to be involved with the Cork footballers.

In a hurling mad county, no matter how well they do, they never get the same acclaim as the other Rebels. Or Munster Rugby and Cork City for that matter.

Yet there is an expectation, given the size of Cork, that the football team should be in the latter stages of the All-Ireland series on a regular basis. In reality, they haven’t even reached the quarter-finals in the past three years or made the last four since 2012.

Underachievers? Certainly, but Cork football is never black and white.

For current boss Ronan McCarthy that simply comes with the territory. He was on the 1999 Cork team that lost the All-Ireland the Meath when the double was on the line. He’ll enjoy the occasion this weekend, a first Munster football final in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh, with the novelty of a 7pm throw-in on a Saturday night, without getting too excited.

“I am looking forward to it. I have a very simple philosophy on it, I have my way of doing things.

“It has had some reasonable degree of success for me in the past and I know when that team runs out on the pitch against Kerry that they are well prepared, that there is real quality in the group and that we have done everything we can to have them ready. 

"After that, be it victory and plaudits or defeat and criticism, you have to look at yourself in the mirror and ask did you do everything that you could?

“Of course I want Cork to be successful and this group to be successful. 

"The work has been done and we are only fine-tuning things. They’ve worked, the backroom team has worked and I’ve worked very hard for the past six months, and you are hoping, as it did against Tipperary, that it comes out again in the performance.”

The Douglas club man did get a real kick from the display and victory over Tipp in the provincial semi, but it’s been steady as she goes all year, even when the league was a disappointment.

‘They’ve been very steady since the start of the year. 

"Losing to Tipp in the first league game was a setback but they knuckled down, came in, got on with it and we won up in Down after that.

“Look, the same here, it was very enjoyable to win, the manner of the performance was great, but that was a Saturday and we were back in on the Monday training. 

"They are kind of a steady group really, there are no big highs or lows, but they enjoyed it.”

Whatever about the modern rivalry with the Premier, where only a kick of a ball separated the sides in 2014, 2016 and last summer, before the recent 11-point win in Semple Stadium, Cork-Kerry is timeless.

The Kingdom eviscerated Clare recently though and have blooded a new wave of powerful and skillful forwards, including Seán O’Shea and David Clifford. 

Be careful what you wish for.

“They were very impressive, they have great quality in the team and always have had. There was a real intensity about their play from when the ball was thrown in and that continued right to the end.

“They have some very talented players. They have an outstanding manager. He always keeps them on a very steady keel. Yes, you couldn’t be but impressed by them but that’s the nature of the game we are in.”

Cork weren’t in a position to pay much heed to Kerry during the spring, despite the possibility of an Old Firm showdown in the Páirc, but now we’ll really see where McCarthy’s side are at.

“The biggest challenge was Tipperary and now you’ve jumped that hurdle, you come to the next one. It’s a great test for our fellas. They are really looking forward to it. It’s an opportunity to test yourself against one of the best teams in the country.”

The likes of Ruairí Deane, Luke Connolly, Ian Maguire and Stephen Cronin excelled in the championship opener, while collectively Cork’s support play and work-rate was the biggest factor in their victory. 

Can they do the same on Saturday?

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