'It's time to let the 2010 team go so the new group can come through'

'It's time to let the 2010 team go so the new group can come through'
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

IT might be just eight years since they brought Sam Maguire home, but a new identity for the Cork footballers is needed if they are to capture trophies again.

The last golden age also saw four league titles landed but current boss Ronan McCarthy feels this crop of Rebels must now forge their own path. Paul Kerrigan, Colm O'Neill and Donncha O'Connor remain on board but the likes of Ian Maguire, Mark Collins, Tomás Clancy and Luke Connolly are the mainstays of a revamped line-up.

“I think it's time to let that team go because they're 35 years of age now, they've retired so it's time to move on,” argued McCarthy at the Munster Championship launch in Bunratty last week.

“They were a great team with some great players and had great leadership and came through a time when Cork weren't successful. We need to move on and let this group come through.

"There are 30, 35 players there and by any definition, there will be leaders we just need to let them emerge. It's not something we sit around talking about but I really think we need to say thanks to that other team and move on.” 

The Douglas native is in the first season of a three-year term and an obvious target is reaching the Super Eights, despite a league campaign which underwhelmed. However, the priority is a Munster semi-final win over Tipp or Waterford on May 26. Even if Cork lost the provincial final after they'd need only one more victory to quality for the new format.

“I started with a realistic ambition to get promoted from Division 2 and we didn't achieve that.

“The Super Eights sounds great. Three really good games, one at home, one away and one in Croke Park, playing regularly in the middle of the summer, it's everything you'd want to be involved in.

“The standard answer is the right one here and that it's too far ahead for us to think about. We can only have one focus and that's the Waterford-Tipp game on Saturday the 26th. If you win that game it opens up avenues but there's a danger about looking too far ahead.” 

For all that, McCarthy agrees Cork can't just glide through the summer with a ready-made excuse that they are a team in transition.

“When people ask about a three-year term and building the team, like, we've an opportunity this year. Let's see what we do this year first because this could be our best opportunity. Let's do the best we can and focus immediately on the Munster semi-final and take it from there.” 

Cork’s Kevin Crowley. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry
Cork’s Kevin Crowley. Picture: INPHO/Oisin Keniry

There have been changes to the panel in recent months, Barry O'Driscoll opted out and Conor Dorman is no longer involved, but James Loughrey and Aidan Walsh are back from injury, while Brian Hurley is on the road to recovery. Hamstring injuries will rule Seán Powter and Brian O'Driscoll out of the opener though, while Paul Kerrigan has a badly damaged finger.

McCarthy feels they learned a lot from the league and have a strong squad despite the absentees.

“The goal was to give players opportunities, which we did, and we've found a few we'd be really, really happy with and will definitely have a role to play in the championship. We have lads to come back as well who'll add to the mix.

“The lifeblood of any team is competition and there's no question that by the time we get to the Tipp or Waterford game we'll have a very good 26 and we'll have five very good players who won't get on at all.” 

The players were in club action during April – a welcome change of scene for everyone.

“We sent the players back with a clear message to perform well for their clubs. If your form is good you've to keep it going because you never know when you'll have a downturn.

“It's also a case that every time you go out and perform as an inter-county player there's an expectation to reach a certain level. We were looking for them to perform well for their clubs and we were watching.

“The timing was great for us, in that the football was played in the earlier part of the month and the hurling later. We have nine games in 12 weeks between the McGrath Cup and the league and whatever about a physical break the group needed a mental break from each other.” 

Cork's last championship outing was gallant defeat to Mayo after extra time in the qualifiers. Supporters are hoping the same drive and power is on display from the off on May 26.

“A lot of commentary is extreme and there are a lot of top players in Cork so people shouldn't have been surprised by the performance [against Mayo]. Mayo, if they have four big games every year, they can perform like that in three and a half or three and three-quarters of them.

“That's an element we have to try and bring, the consistency. The ups and downs have hampered us over the last number of years. There is no quick fix.

“A lot of people are hanging their hat on the Mayo game and they won't be talking about it if we fail to quality for the Super Eights.”

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