McCarthy has earned his shot at the highest level but there won't be any quick-fix for Cork football

McCarthy has earned his shot at the highest level but there won't be any quick-fix for Cork football
David Clarke of Mayo tips a goalbound effort from Tomás Clancy of Cork over the bar. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

ULTIMATELY, this was the best bet for Cork football.

The leading candidate, Ronan McCarthy, was identified quickly and agreed to take over. As before the past two appointments, John Cleary’s name was in the mix, but the board went with McCarthy on the basis of his experience as a selector with Conor Counihan and Brian Cuthbert, his passion for coaching, and a county-winning season with Carbery Rangers.

It’s hard to argue with that logic. While McCarthy isn’t an inspirational figure ala Billy Morgan or JBM, and they’re few and far between in any county, he ticks other boxes. It’s comparable to Kieran Kingston’s selection as hurling manager, and the hope is he’ll assemble as impressive a backroom team, with the right blend of fresh thinking and gravitas. Modern management with a dash of old-school hardness.

Outgoing manager Peadar Healy. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Outgoing manager Peadar Healy. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

McCarthy is going to operate a dual mandate as coach and manager, so his selectors will need to be able to handle an element of the training too and he’ll need a few trustworthy lieutenants to handle the logistics as well. Establishing a strong connection with the new U20 boss and the U17 set-up will crucial in the bigger picture.

Cork football is at its lowest ebb for some time, but it wouldn’t take too long, and a few good performances, to generate a bit of positivity. The supporters want to see passion and an attacking style, but above all else they simply want a team who are savvy and winning.

Kieran Donaghy in action against Aidan O'Shea. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Kieran Donaghy in action against Aidan O'Shea. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The past six days, as the previous week had been, were dominated by Mayo’s decision to send Aidan O’Shea back to mark Kieran Donaghy. Tyrone’s approach to the semi-final with Dublin was high on the agenda too, with Donegal’s counter-attacking through the centre to down the Dubs at the same stage in 2014 recalled as an obvious touchstone.

There is often a danger players get caught up in ‘paralysis by analysis’. Yet there’s no doubt the game has evolved to the point where tactics are a critical aspect of football preparation.

McCarthy on the line for Carbery Rangers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
McCarthy on the line for Carbery Rangers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Obviously, McCarthy can be as shrewd as a fox, but if his panel doesn’t have the talent or basic strength and conditioning work done Cork won’t be in with a chance against the elite teams. Previously the hope had been that Rebels’ pedigree in the Munster U21 championship would pay off at senior level.

That can no longer be relied upon, given how few top-class footballers have emerged from that system in recent years. A real conveyor belt is operating over the border, with Kerry preparing for their fourth All-Ireland minor final in a row having won the last three titles, and David Clifford hogging headlines for his unmarkable attacking exploits.

There are raw materials available on Leeside however. Kevin Crowley, Sean Powter and Michael Hurley all enhanced their reputations this summer. Ian Maguire, Stephen Cronin and John O’Rourke. who is familiar with McCarthy from his stint in Rosscarbery, showed flashes of their obvious ability. Luke Connolly is another who had his moments in 2017.

It’s essential Aidan Walsh can be nurtured - both fitness wise and mentally - to dominate like he did in his early days.

Unearthing a few new faces will be vital - Cian Dorgan from Ballincollig seems an obvious choice up front if he can marry work-rate with his clinical shooting off both feet - but so too will stability. Football is very much a 21-man game these days, with players swapping positions depending on match-ups and circumstances, but a core of 11 or 12 players needs to be nailed down during the league.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the veterans from this year’s squad. Paul Kerrigan (31) has been a leader and regular scorer, while even at 36 Donncha O’Connor has excelled when fit.

Eoin Cadogan though has been dogged by injuries, Ken O’Halloran was dropped for the Mayo clash, and Alan O’Connor and Michael Shields weren’t as prominent as before, with the Barrs recently reinventing Shields at centre-forward against Newcestown.

With a three-year term ahead of him, McCarthy can afford to be bold, which is why a link to the new U20 management will be key. Yet a bit of direction from the experienced heads won’t go amiss either.

Aidan Walsh has struggled with injuries. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Aidan Walsh has struggled with injuries. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

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