FIRST off, let’s talk about Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
It’s magnificent, it really is.
During its construction phase, it was a lightning rod for criticism, no doubt allied to the fact that things weren’t going so well on the pitch.
Cost overruns added to that, as well as the protests of the Save Marina Park group regarding changes that they allege were made from the original plan.
Obviously, it’s never the case that everyone can be pleased, and there is still some sorting out to do on that front.
The structure itself should only receive praise, though, and such a view was almost unanimous from supporters of the visiting six counties at the weekend (the four counties in the senior games, Galway in the minor on Saturday and Kilkenny in the intermediate final on Sunday).
Walking from Páirc Uí Rinn – about seven minutes, and not the Trans-Siberian trudge that some may have claimed was required – you really get a sense of how imposing the South Stand is, as there is a clear view from the Monahan Road side rather than how things were previous, with the showgrounds wall obscuring what was obviously a smaller building.
We would still prefer if the North and South Stands were the same height for symmetrical purposes, but we understand, with premium level to take into consideration, why such a disparity exists.
The extra height of the South Stand is also advantageous for the media. More than a few times during the build, we expressed the hope that the view from the new press box would match that of the crow’s nest in the old covered stand, and it certainly ticks that box. Perhaps it’s a bit open to the wind, but that’s an occupational hazard, and, for comparison, the east-facing Croke Park press box can be freezing, even on warm days. Perhaps our view might be different after a Munster club championship game on a dank November day, but for now it gets a resounding thumbs-up.
Of course, while Saturday’s game between Clare and Tipperary was ongoing, Cork were gearing up for their ultimately unsuccessful All-Ireland SFC round 4A qualifier against Mayo in Limerick.
It was a spirited performance from what was for the last time Peadar Healy’s side, one which hadn’t been foreseen by very many. That was reflected in the paucity of the Cork support in the Gaelic Grounds, estimated by C103’s Paudie Palmer to be outnumbered by about 15 to one by their Mayo counterparts.
Despite that disparity, the players on the field almost effected an against-the-odds victory, coming back well to force extra time but then running out of legs in the additional 20 minutes as well as incurring a lot of injuries.
Work commitments meant that we were in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, but otherwise we would have been in Limerick. It was interesting to see so many tweets extolling Cork, and laying out what should happen now, from people who didn’t travel by choice and were watching on TV rather than supporting in person.
There were mistakes made by the management team over the past two years, but nobody is ever flawless. The decision to call Mark White of Clonakilty – last year’s minor goalkeeper – up to the squad in the past few weeks, necessitating the postponement of an U21 game against St Michael’s, was odd when he wasn’t part of the matchday 26 on Saturday.
Nevertheless, Peadar Healy was and is a decent man, and at least the Mayo game can be pointed to as a sign that progress was made. However, the fear is now that we are in a cycle of two-year terms, with each new manager coming in and ripping things up and starting again. It’s a certain way to sure failure.
Ideally, the main man in Cork would be a director of football, with responsibility for the appointment of coaches, not managers, at minor, U21, junior and senior. This is similar to what happens at Southampton or Swansea City – the man in charge of the first team may change, but the overall ethos doesn’t.
The follow-on from the 2010 minor team hasn’t been good enough and the good U21 teams haven’t translated to senior either. If there is a joined-up approach at all levels, then at least there is a pathway for the best talent.