ON the most basic level, camogie in Cork couldn’t be in better health according to senior boss Paudie Murray.
The experienced coach, whose youngest daughter pulls on the St Finbarr’s colours, believes there are more playing the game than ever before at underage on Leeside.
“I think there more people than ever playing the game. The underage has gone very strong. Éire Óg, Ballinora, those type of clubs, you’ve the usual like Sars and Douglas and more than that all across the county.
“I was at the Deccie Crowley U10 Tournament in Ballinhassig recently and the standard was excellent.”
Yet despite the strength in depth in terms of clubs, Murray does agree with the observation that the Rebels are underachieving at underage inter-county. Cork might be in the intermediate and senior All-Ireland finals this Sunday at Croke Park, but there isn't a clear production line of talent.
Since minor moved from U16 to U18 in 2006, Cork have never won it – though they did reach finals in 2013 and ’14 – while Kilkenny have collected the cup six times.
In the meantime at U16 haven’t been victorious either, only reaching one of the last nine finals, in 2015, having lost three in a row from 2006 to ‘08.
In his view, Cork need to target former players to get involved to raise the standard of coaching, from club level up and look again at development squads.
“There’s an issue with coaching alright and you can see that in Cork’s lack of underage success for 10 years now. We need more former greats involved with their clubs and then on to Cork. That’s just common sense.
“It’s not a money issue but people who have something to offer must be targeted. You can argue being dependent on GAA clubs for pitches doesn’t help, but let’s get the coaches in first. I certainly think the players are there.”
Murray admits this year’s minors did make a mark, pushing a crack Galway outfit all the way in the semi-final.
“This year’s minor team ran a very good Galway team close, and the U16 team did the same, but we’re only punching away without winning any trophies. We haven’t won an All-Ireland U16 since Anna Geary’s time (in 2003).”
While Murray is alarmed by the lack of silverware at the top, he argues clubs, nurturing male and female players, should prioritise skills not winning.
“Get your technique right, work on the skills, keep as many playing as you can and then bring that bit of intensity when they’re in their teens.
“Shouting and roaring on the line doesn’t make any boy or girl a better player. Win at all costs at underage never pays off.
“How many good players drift off to soccer because they’ve less pressure, more matches, the league format instead of championship where on loss and the whole season is basically over.”