SO what now for Cork hurling after Kieran Kingston’s departure?
The announcement on Saturday evening that had decided not to accept an invitation to extend his managerial tenure might have caught some people by surprise given how successful the season just ended had been.
It ended in disappointment of course in the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Waterford when the team was reduced to 14 players but the positives for the year certainly far outweighed the negatives.
Regaining the Munster title with three superb victories over Tipperary, a game that they were written off in by most pundits, Waterford and Clare was a superb achievement with so many new, young players on board.
Kingston admitted that he and his management team had taken a big gamble by sending out so many rookies against the reigning All-Ireland champions in Thurles but it was one that spectacularly paid off.
Given how well the year had gone, the wider Cork audience will be mystified now by his decision to walk away but the uncertainty surrounding his reluctance to go again was well signposted.
In an interview in this newspaper a few weeks ago he outlined the immense workload these days of an inter-county manager and the fact that he had given five of the last six years to the Rebel cause.
Being an intercounty boss in such a high profile county impacts considerably on business and personal life and it’s a daunting task trying to balance all three.
In his business life, there is quite a bit of travel involved and that impacted too quite heavily on everything.
The players very much wanted him to stay alongside them going forward and only last week Alan Cadogan contacted this writer to outline why they wanted him to continue.
It hasn’t happened, however, and when we see a Cork hurling team in action again in the early months of 2018 it will be all change at the helm.
So what will Kingston’s legacy to the game on Leeside be ?, the answer is very simple and very positive.
The 2016 season was a learning process, a costly one given how poorly the team performed in both the league and the championship.
The defeat to Wexford, a very average Wexford team was a very low point and in the aftermath of that game, there was a huge amount of apathy about.
Could Cork sink much lower?
Well, they didn’t and a decision was taken by Kingston and his management team that day in Thurles that the bull would have to be taken by the horns if Cork hurling had any hope of coming out of the dark hole it was now in.
Fast forward to the start of the 2017 campaign and the complexion of the squad had changed dramatically.
In the previous year only one under-21 player had been involved, now there was anything up to a dozen.
When the team fielded against Tipperary you had four of them starting with Colm Spillane coming in too.
Bold decisions were taken earlier to release a number of high-profile players from the equation and Kingston and his selectors were now exhibiting a more ruthless streak.
For a number of games in the national league, Patrick Horgan was omitted from the starting 15 and every player came more under the spotlight.
Horgan came back, a perfect illustration of form being temporary and class being permanent, to be a huge force and he will now be handed an All-Star in November.
Questions, of course, may be asked if the Cork County Board could have done more to keep Kingston on board.
Maybe they could, maybe they should but maybe they couldn’t and the manager had his mind made up anyway.
He’s going to be a huge loss because, aside from the upsurge in fortunes of the team, the feelgood factor has been returned to Cork hurling.
Going into Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday evening for the Blackrock, Na Piarsaigh game this observer met one of Cork hurling’s most ardent supporters, one who has always stood by the players.
He wasn’t aware of Kingston’s departure and when I informed him he was stunned, stating that it a huge setback.
That it is but now a replacement must be found and found quickly.
All the championships across the county are now at the business end and it would be ideal to have a manager and selectors in place to cast their eyes over what will transpire in the next five or six weeks.
The County Board moved quickly with Ronan McCarthy’s appointment, they must do something similar here.
For continuity purposes, it would be very important to have members of Kingston’s management team on board and all three, John Meyler, Pat Ryan and Diarmuid O’Sullivan have major contributions to make.
Another top man, Pat Hartnett went last week and it’s important tot to note the vast contribution the Midleton man-made, something that Kingston was very emphatic about.
One way or another, Meyler remains as under-21 boss and it’s important that the bridge Kingston built between that grade and the seniors remains in place.
All of the other Cork teams this year fed off the transformation of the senior team’s fortunes and the game in general in the county has blossomed.
On a different matter, relationships these days between the media and team managements is not what it once was when there was plenty of access.
Kingston was an exception and not once in his two-year term did he not acknowledge a call from this observer.
His genuineness was apparent for everybody to see and players and supporters alike had a strong bond with him.
Cork hurling is certainly in a much healthier state because of his involvement.