IT’S been a sweet few weeks for the Meyler clan.
John is the new Cork hurling boss, taking charge of a young, vibrant squad eager to kick on, while his son David last week captained Ireland to a famous World Cup qualifying victory in Wales and is Hull City’s Player of the Month. International soccer is as prestigious as it gets, yet down here it nothing is as important as hurling, so John has stolen David’s thunder with his appointment as Rebel supremo on a two-year term.
It’s the culmination of a lifelong commitment to hurling and coaching. John’s path has taken him from Wexford to UCC, which included playing soccer in the Collingwood Cup, St Finbarr’s, and management stints in Wexford, Kerry and Carlow, as well as with numerous clubs and CIT in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
The sports-mad family, which includes Stella and Sarah, could be in for a hectic summer in 2018 if Ireland get past Denmark and reach the World Cup in Russia, and the Cork hurlers drive towards the Munster final. With a bit of luck John, who travels everywhere to support David, will be jetting between Moscow and Thurles at some stage next June.
Meyler senior has a tough but exciting challenge ahead of him. He takes over a Rebel panel on a rise but with the expectation that comes in the wake of the progress made under Kieran Kingston.
The most high-profile change to Kingston’s senior hurling set-up for this year was the recruitment of Gary Keegan. Through his work with the Irish boxers, the high-performance consultant had an impressive track record and clearly his input – even on the periphery – gave the Rebels a real boost.
Cork’s thrilling campaign saw them lift the Munster title and lead in the All-Ireland semi-final until going down to 14 men. In the process, Cork hurled with style and confidence, despite the influx of young guns, and Keegan deserved the praise that came his way.
Yet far more substantial than hiring Keegan was Kingston bringing in Meyler as a selector. Keegan was there for a number of sessions, where Meyler was ever-present. He was the conduit between the U21s, as manager, and the senior squad and Cork blended in their rookies so smoothly they went from also-rans to contenders.
When Kingston stepped away continuity was vital – and with the rest of the 2016 management team out of the running that made Meyler the obvious man to take the helm. Ideally, some of the other outgoing selectors, Pat Ryan, who was also coach, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Pat Harnett, would stay on board and maintain the pillars of Kingston’s structure is essential.
Keegan should be kept on as a consultant while Declan O’Sullivan, as the physical trainer, and the core of the backroom team must be retained. This year there was a fluid link between the U17, minor, U21 and senior mentors. And with U17 manager John Considine appointed at that grade, which is now officially minor, and the minor boss Denis Ring taking up the U21 post, that shouldn’t be difficult to replicate.
Meyler is seen as a no-nonsense operator, going all the way back to when he was a senior selector during a difficult period in 2002, but that won’t be a concern once there’s a balance in his selectors.
He’s served a lengthy apprenticeship, which included a stint with the Rebel Óg development squads, and his grá for hurling is incredible.
He’s liable to pop up anywhere to watch a match, lately, he was at an U21 B game in the South East division, and is regularly seen in The Model Farm bar and restaurant talking sport with Cork icon Ronan Curran and Seanie Barry, an U21 selector this year. Both are Barrs men as well, and Meyler actually played in the last Blues side to land the SFC, in 1985.
A good omen for their replay against Nemo on Sunday perhaps.
It’ll be interesting to see who Meyler brings in with him. Former Cork captain Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy was a selector with the U21s and is highly regarded as a coach. The Sars man does have a young family but could still be tempted.
The likes of Wayne Sherlock, a current Rockies selector, and Pat Mulcahy, who has made a mark with CIT, are other names being mentioned. Whoever comes in they’ll have a demanding schedule, as the round robin system means the league – opening with a home tie against Kilkenny is brought forward – and the Munster championship involves hosting Clare and Limerick and travelling to Tipp and Waterford.
The new Cork manager is continuing the Barrs tradition of producing senior hurling managers, including Donal O’Grady, John Allen and Jimmy Barry-Murphy in the modern era. They all brought the Liam McCarthy back to Leeside. No pressure eh!