WHEN Kieran Kingston informed the board that he was staying on as Cork hurling boss there was really only one option regarding his successor.
Given the progress that the county had made this year under Kingston’s management team, the imperative in appointing his replacement would be continuity. Therefore it was the logical thing to pass the torch to one of Kingston’s backroom team. In John Meyler, they have a perfect choice.
Meyler was brought in by Kingston at the outset of last season as a selector following his appointment as Cork U21 boss and the arrangement was the first step along the redemption road. In the past, the Cork U21s and seniors worked independently and it was felt that a proper link-up was vital. We saw how well that worked over the summer.
There had been quite a bit of speculation over the past number of weeks regarding the appointment of the new man and Meyler was at the forefront of that. Now that it has come to pass and the former Barrs man has been appointed there can be few dissenting voices.
His qualifications for the job are second to none, a glance at his CV will illustrate that depth and travel outside the county to North Kerry and Kilmoyley, Carlow, Wexford and a host of Cork club teams you will get nothing but praise for the work he put in those places while he was there.
Is there a better hurling man anywhere?
There are probably equals in every county but here in Cork, the evidence of Meyler’s passion for the game is in evidence week in, week out, in fact, day in, day out. His presence at club games in every grade of hurling is unique. He will be in Páirc Uí Rinn for a senior club match in the afternoon or at night after being in Ballinlough earlier in the day for a junior game.
He’s a hurling man through and through and is one of its keenest students.
Now, in his own words, his appointment as Cork hurling’s frontman is the pinnacle of what is already a hugely impressive career. Wherever he has been during his 35-year involvement in coaching he has left that club or county in a far better state than he found it.
He will be under no illusions taking on the Cork job, fully aware of the excellent progress that was made this year after a couple of very barren ones but, at the same time, knowing full well that there are absolutely no guarantees going forward. It does not always follow that one good year will be followed by another one and the playing field in Munster and outside has never been as level as it is now.
The five Munster teams will be ultra-competitive again, Galway will not want to be one season wonders, Wexford will want to build on their own resurgence this year, Dublin, under Pat Gilroy, will be a different animal entirely while Kilkenny will always be Kilkenny.
Thankfully, Cork are now going into 2018 on a level footing with the rest, something that was not the case in seasons prior to this.
The young guns who made such an impact this time, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Luke Meade, Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston, in particular, will be a year older and a year wiser next term. Others like David Griffin, the Barrs Billy Hennessy, Chris O’Leary, Darren Browne, Sean Donoghue and some very good minor players this year will be given an opportunity along the way to exhibit their prospects.
Continuing the search to further embellish the squad will be a priority for Meyler, something he has already acknowledged.
“We need to find another Mark Coleman, another Darragh Fitzgibbon, more new players for next year, We need to keep on building up the squad, that’s the key thing.”
The Munster championship campaign next season will be a rigorous test of Cork’s credentials again, five games in total to retain their crown. Cork will be away to Tipp and Waterford and those will be acid tests along the way.
But, right now, Cork hurling is in a pretty good place, Meyler will strive might and main to keep it that way and to take it much further. He’s the right man at the right time.