WITH Billy Sheehan and, to a lesser extent, Eamonn Ryan, primarily in charge of Cork training sessions, manager Peadar Healy is in an overseeing role.
Often, this equates to refereeing intra-squad games (‘reds’ v ‘whites’, a mix, rather an A v B). What kind of a referee is he?
“A lot of them say that I don’t blow the whistle enough!” he laughs.
Once upon a time, Healy was the man on the sideline, piloting the session while Conor Counihan was the manager. When the buck stops with you, the extra responsibilities are many and varied.
“There’s way media attention anyway, for a start,” he says.
“You put an awful lot of trust in your backroom and your players, there’s no day that five or six fellas aren’t looking for you.
“Time is the big thing and it’s gone to the stage where you need the summer off. You’re in the business end of it now from the Munster final on and you need every spare hour that you have to focus on the next game and preparing teams.”
No matter how much time a manager puts in, the public perception will be driven by results and results only. For Cork, this year the results haven’t always gone their way, and even the one-point wins over Waterford and Tipperary in the Munster championship were greeted with a shrug.
The latter game, live on RTÉ radio and television, was almost a set-up for the funeral of Cork football, with analysts putting one foot in beforehand and then preparing the other for when Tipp won
“You know in this game that, when it comes to championship, it’s brutal out there,” Healy says.
“Nobody doesn’t get it at some time or other but it’s part and parcel of management, you have to get up and get on with it.
“You can’t dwell too long on it, you just have to do everything you can to improve things. You have to give great credit to the players, they are putting in savage work, the backroom team and the management, everyone is doing their damnedest to improve Cork football.”
That’s what made it so pleasing when Cork produced a strong response to Conor Sweeney’s goal which put Tipp 1-9 to 0-10 ahead. Ken O’Halloran initiated a quick kickout and the ball was worked up the field, allowing Luke Connolly to palm in the winning goal.
“I looked up at the clock and it was 69-something minutes,” Healy says, “and I thought, ‘We’ll get a draw out of this at least’.
“I had that belief in them, this crowd are resilient. We had the momentum at the time, it [the goal] went against the play and 22 seconds later the ball was in the Tipp net.
“That just showed how resilient this group of players are. Give me a better goal than that this year and I’d love to have a good look at it.”
At the time, it was thought that that goal had secured a place in the opening game at the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Events took over and it is back to Killarney, where Cork haven’t won since 1995. Healy doesn’t pretend he wasn’t looking forward to the Park, but is sanguine too.
“Being honest, it is a disappointment,” he says.
“At the start of the year, it was a goal of ours, to be the first Cork team to play. It would have been great for the players, the management and for the supporters as well.
“You would have had home advantage as well but look, having said that, once we were told we were going to Killarney, we just refocused. The boys are well used to Killarney, hopefully now the Cork supporters will come down and support us.”
And, just because Cork have to travel doesn’t mean that the pressure is off.
“You have higher expectations when you’re at home,” he says, “but there’s also an expectation when it’s Killarney because it’s time to end that record – ‘Can Cork do it?’. There’s an expectation on Kerry too, if they can maintain their record
“You can look at it both ways. We’re going down as well underdogs and that’s understandable. We’re in a Munster final at the end of the day, it’s championship and if we got a one-point win in Killarney, we’d be happy.”