Big changes on the horizon for Cork football

Big changes on the horizon for Cork football
Ruairí Deane and Stephen Coen of Mayo. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

OUTGOING football manager, Peader Healy, struck a chord, when discussing a likely successor in the immediate aftermath of Cork's narrow All-Ireland qualifying defeat by Mayo last month.

The game marked the end of his two-year stint, which had more lows than highs and took an obvious toll on all involved.

“It's brutal in this business, especially on the management side. It's almost become a professional job, suitable for someone retired or a teacher who is off for the summer. You need an awful lot of time,” he said.

It's no co-incidence that teachers, either primary school or secondary, tend to be the dominant profession in managing inter-county teams.

Ask them why they considered teaching in the first instance and the cynical answer would invariably be three reasons-June, July and August.

Having the summer away from the high pressure zone of the classroom frees teachers to explore many other options.

Yet, you'd wonder why they'd jump from one stressful setting to another and the latter a far more public scrutiny of their labours at that?

So, it came as little surprise that Ronan McCarthy was appointed, on a three-year gig, to replace Healy, not as manager, mind you, but as coach.

That was the job title issued by the board, when releasing news of the appointment on their website during the week.

Chairman Ger Lane spoke about the board's decision to steer away from 'managers' to 'coaches' of their county teams.

To most it's just semantics, but there are major differences between the roles. Managers are effectively organisers in the main, undertaking rudimentary, but essential works behind the scenes, whereas coaches are out in the middle of the pitch supervising drills, improving skills and implementing designated tactics.

McCarthy's first step will be to coax people to act as selectors and help carry some of the burden.

That will be a chore in itself because getting people to commit to a three-year term is a huge ask given the time constraints placed on everyone these days.

Then, you've areas like training, strength@conditioning, physios, stats and much more to deal with, too.

There was a photo taken of the Dublin back-room team after last year's All-Ireland success and it showed 23 people in total in the pic. That's the level inter-county games is at presently.

It's encouraging that there will be a link between the senior and the new-look U20 set-up going forward because continuity is uppermost in any successful venture.

And the timing of the announcement, a month or so after Healy's decision not to seek a further term, is also to be welcomed, especially with the county championships starting to crank up.

“It's a new team starting out because a lot of the older lads will go now. It takes time and it doesn't happen over a league or championship campaign. People must be patient,” was Healys parting shot.

So, who of the older brigade are contemplating calling it a day? Naturally, those over 30 are bound to fall into that category, whether it's the case or not.

Without being accused of ageism or anything of the sort, inter-county football these days is a young man's game, though, clearly, not exclusively.

Of course, each individual case has to be taken on its merits, but it's an obvious starting point.

At 36, Donncha O'Connor is the father figure of the panel and has been on the go since 2006.

Injuries have impacted and yet he was still crucial to Cork this season, mostly from the bench, but starting and impressing in the defeat by Mayo.

Namesake, Alan O'Connor, is 32 and even more unfortunate with injuries, restricted to an extra-time showing against the westerners. It's hard to see the St Colum's player togging out in 2018.

Then, there are a number of 31-year-olds, varying from goalkeeper Ken O'Halloran to Michael Shields and Jim Loughrey and Eoin Cadogan, who'll be celebrating birthdays shortly.

Again, we're not advocating a widespread cull as it has to be a case-by-case basis and players know themselves anyway whether they can commit or not.

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