Meyler, Fraggie Murphy and O'Mahony will want to make their mark but the Cork hurlers just need to refine not reboot their approach

Meyler, Fraggie Murphy and O'Mahony will want to make their mark but the Cork hurlers just need to refine not reboot their approach
Cork boss John Meyler. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

BEFORE we know it, the new hurling season will be upon us, at inter-county level, at least.

With the provincial championships expanded to a round-robin format from next summer, pre-season has come forward.

The Munster Senior League, which Cork used last January to gather the momentum that carried them to glory in Thurles in July, is mooted to start the week after Christmas.

Mark Coleman during this season's Munster Senior Hurling League final. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Mark Coleman during this season's Munster Senior Hurling League final. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

The league is locked-in for a floodlit Saturday night start on January 29 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Kilkenny are coming to Cork, with Cork-Tipp in Division 2 of the NFL as an opener.

Even with these changes, this would be straightforward if Kieran Kingston hadn’t vacated the Cork manager’s position and John Meyler hadn’t replaced him.

Not only that, Pat Ryan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, and Pat Hartnett are gone as selectors, so even with the continuity of Meyler’s promotion, there will be a different managerial approach.

Thankfully, two of the new selectors, Donal O’Mahony and Kieran ‘Fraggie’ Murphy, were involved this year, with the seniors and U21s, respectively. Another selector will be announced as a conduit between U21 and senior — one of Denis Ring, Johnny Dwyer, Liam Martin, John Mortell, or Fergus Ryan.

Donal O’Mahony is an unknown quantity to the public, but has been goalkeeping coach for the past two years. The Bishopstown native was an excellent club hurler and pulled on the Rebel geansaí underage. The maths teacher is unassuming, but hugely passionate about Cork hurling.

Along with the school’s principal, Larry Jordan, O’Mahony has been instrumental in transforming Christians, where he’s now deputy principal, into a genuine force in the Dr Harty Cup and Dean Ryan Cup. His knowledge of the young talent across the county is considerable.

Kevin Finn of CBC in the Harty Cup last month. Picture: Don Moloney/Press 22
Kevin Finn of CBC in the Harty Cup last month. Picture: Don Moloney/Press 22

Fraggie Murphy has a significant profile as a member of the Cork All-Ireland winning outfit of 2004-2005 — nailing two vital points in ’04, against Kilkenny — and he was captain under Denis Walsh in 2010, when the Rebels were beaten in the Munster final, after extra-time in a replay against Waterford. Before that, Murphy was an exceptional minor, alongside John Gardiner and Setanta Ó hAilpín, in the 2001 All-Ireland victory, the county’s last.

Only 34, work and family commitments cut short his career, but not before he’d led Sars to their breakthrough county, in 2008, and captained LIT to a Fitzgibbon Cup.

Indeed, he’s close enough to Davy Fitzgerald, who managed him in college, that he was touted for a coaching role with Clare, before Donal Óg Cusack headed to the Banner.

Murphy was a cerebral forward, in that he valued an assist as much as a point, and in his All-Star nominated season, in 2007, he excelled as the fulcrum of the attack, both on the scoreboard and through his off-loads.

Fraggie a goal in 2007 against Waterford at Croker. Picture: Dan Linehan
Fraggie a goal in 2007 against Waterford at Croker. Picture: Dan Linehan

It’s probably no coincidence that he’s a huge American football fan and he’ll offer a tactical attacking insight on the training ground. One of the major failings of the Cork front-six has been their reliance on individual brilliance. Though the forward unit hurled better collectively in landing the 2017 Munster crown than they had since the halcyon days of the mid-noughties, they still leaned heavily on Patrick Horgan’s brilliance in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Cork must learn how to grind out a low-scoring win, as well as a shoot-out.

Meyler and his management will surely turn the likes of Conor Lehane and Shane Kingston into providers as much as finishers.

That’s not to say the natural flair of the Rebels should be neutered, or that they should over-complicate it, like Tipp have been guilty of. However, it would be a step in the right direction if one of their marquee men was hailed next summer for setting up five or six scores, rather than scoring them.

You’d be surprised if Meyler and co made too many changes to the panel or team selection, but, then, no one anticipated the possible return of Eoin Cadogan to the ranks.

The 31-year-old handled the strength-and-conditioning for the U21s this year, but, last week, Meyler revealed he’d like him to bolster the defensive options.

Charleville's Darragh Fitzgibbon is tackled by Kanturk's Darren Browne.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Charleville's Darragh Fitzgibbon is tackled by Kanturk's Darren Browne.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

With a minimum of four Munster championship outings, Cork do need a vibrant, capable squad. We expect Imokilly duo, Colm Barry and Niall O’Leary, Kanturk’s Darren Browne, and Sars’ Eoghan Murphy to be involved from a defensive perspective.

Michael O’Halloran, Robbie O’Flynn, Jack O’Connor, and Evan Sheehan — one of the talented minor graduates who isn’t tied up with Leaving Cert — are likely to be strong contenders to liven up the attack.

Refining, rather than overhauling, this season’s group is all that’s required.

John Meyler. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
John Meyler. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

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