Cork's latest hammering was football hell on a hot summer's day, the time for drastic action has come

Cork's latest hammering was football hell on a hot summer's day, the time for drastic action has come
Mark White and Brian O'Driscoll dejected after Ronan O'Neill scored his side's second goal. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

WHERE the hell does Cork football go from here?

In the sunniest summer in living memory, Cork are in the darkest place they’ve been in the modern era.

Sure, 2003-’04 was bleak, with championship setbacks against Limerick, Roscommon and Fermanagh. There was light at the end of the tunnel then thanks to the leadership offered by Graham Canty, Nicholas Murphy and Anthony Lynch as they entered their peak years and some fine young players coming through from U21.

And this nightmare has gone on for longer.

Brian Hurley taking on Ronan McNamee. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Brian Hurley taking on Ronan McNamee. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

It dates back to the 12-point drubbing in the last Munster football final in the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh, right through the qualifier exit to Kildare in 2015 – albeit after a dodgy penalty cost Cork a win in Killarney – to the defeat by Tipp in ’16 and these maulings from Kerry and Tyrone.

You’d question the type of strength and conditioning, football training and mental preparation the current team has undergone during the Ronan McCarthy regime, but it can’t all be the manager’s fault. Brian Cuthbert and Peadar Healy have already been and gone in the last four years to howls of derision.

There’s been a turnover of players too and there will be more after Saturday evening, with Donncha O’Connor the first to retire.

The common denominator is the Cork jersey.

Cork football is now a laughing stock. In fact it’s so embarrassingly bad that the Tyrone crowd were sympathising with us long before the full-time whistle in Portlaoise. ‘Sure at least ye’ve the hurling,’ they offered by way of condolence. And while that’s fair enough in a way, it’s not good enough.

Why, with all the players and clubs in Rebel county, should we settle for second best in football? Actually second best is way above what we’ve seen in the last two weeks.

There were few if any positives to take from our latest slaughtering.

Mark White, at 20 years of age, is a brilliant shot-stopper. While Cork’s lack of short kick-out options were inexplicable against Tyrone, White has a great future.

Sean White and goalkeeper Mark White after the loss. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Sean White and goalkeeper Mark White after the loss. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Mark Collins was Cork’s more impressive player in terms of movement and skill, but even he got red-carded. Michael Hurley had his moments darting around the attack and Ruairí Deane picked up his share of ball in the middle third. 

Luke Connolly was a threat when deployed close to goal but attempted too many Hollywood passes outfield.

Really though we’re only clutching at straws. There was nothing to salvage from this debacle.

Cork had a few goal chances but Tyrone were totally in control and scored at will from every angle. Panama were better organised at corners in their World Cup thrashing by England than Cork were for Tyrone’s restarts and angled runs off the shoulder.

The Red Hand wouldn’t be renowned as an attacking force but they put up a score the Cork or Galway hurlers would have been proud of. That’s ludicrous.

Tyrone's Connor McAliskey celebrates after scoring the opening goal Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Tyrone's Connor McAliskey celebrates after scoring the opening goal Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

This piece was supposed to include player ratings but Cork were so pathetic there was no point in filling a column with 3/10s. 

Instead, there are a few suggestions below on how Cork football can get a bit of respectability back.

The problem is, they’re not exactly new proposals. In the Evening Echo, The Irish Examiner, The Southern Star and more, similar suggestions have previously been made and ignored. 

Delegates have spoken out in the Cork County Board about the state of peil on Leeside and vice-chairman Kevin O’Donovan produced a document detailing ways to improve both codes at all levels which was basically ignored.

Do clubs in our county and in West Cork, West Muskerry, Beara and Duhallow especially as they are the heartland of Cork football care enough? Does it really and truly cut deeply that we are now so bad?

Cork hurling was in the horrors only as recently as 2016 but they knew they’d turn the corner because of the efforts being put into development squads, schools coaching and with the right people were at the helm of the key teams. 

You never get the same feeling of outrage from the football community. Angrily posting on social media isn’t going to change anything.

Ronan McCarthy has two more years in what was always going to be a period of transition. He needs to reflect on his backroom and his panel and be ruthless.

True, Cork delivered a brilliant result against Tipp in the Munster semi-final but the last two games have undone that good work. If this really is the bottom then Cork have to start clawing their way back to relevance.

There will be no quick fixes for Cork football.

The current team don’t look like they’ll compete for major prizes for a number of seasons and the results underage and at schools level have been underwhelming to say the least.

Cork haven’t won a Munster minor since Brian Hurley was the star man in Killarney in 2010, while Kerry are gunning for their fifth minor All-Ireland in a row and captured last year’s U21 title and this year’s U20. Kerry have schools landed every Corn Uí Mhuirí trophy since 2006, with only Críost Rí going close lately.

Chris Óg Jones showed up well for the U20 team in Tralee and the likes of Colm O’Callaghan, Blake Murphy and Cillian Meyers Murray have potential. Yet it’s hard to identify the equivalent of young hurling stars Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Shane Kingston.

There are three steps that should be taken before the year is out to start that process.

1. APPOINT A DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL: This is a drum we’ve banged for a decade now.

A head of Cork football, and Cork hurling, should be appointed and charged with making the Rebels market leaders in both codes.

Football, especially, needs a figurehead with a background in coaching to mobilise those who favour the big ball game.

Former Cork football manager Billy Morgan and his son Briain at the game. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Former Cork football manager Billy Morgan and his son Briain at the game. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

2. INVEST IN COACHING: Cork have a handful of Gaelic Development Administrators dividing their time between hurling and football and often it’s the latter that suffers.

Dublin is awash with coaches, one per club. Even if Cork don’t reach those levels they need to generate the revenue from somewhere to have at least 15 GDAs in hurling and 15 in football.

Now in Dublin, each club has to pay towards GDAs and on Leeside there would be resistance to such a levy. The new county secretary who replaces Frank Murphy can make coming up with a solution his first goal.

Douglas' Kevin Flahive has emerged as a solid defensive option this season. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Douglas' Kevin Flahive has emerged as a solid defensive option this season. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

3. MAKE FOOTBALL MORE ATTRACTIVE: Cork is a hurling county. At this stage no one could argue with that. Hurling is more glamorous but there are enough youngsters across what’s a vast county to produce players that can compete with the best of the rest.

Alan and Eoin Cadogan, Shane Kingston and Seán O’Donoghue are among the footballers who shone at various levels in red only to opt for hurling.

That will always be a problem, but it’s become an excuse too.

Identify the best footballers and convince them that football should be their priority, not hurling, soccer, rugby or whatever they also play.

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