Paudie Palmer: Ronan McCarthy must set higher targets for Cork footballers

Rebels need to gain promotion and challenge in the championship
Paudie Palmer: Ronan McCarthy must set higher targets for Cork footballers

Kerry's Stephen O'Brien with Cork goalkeeper Micheal Martin and Maurice Shanley in the Munster semi-final this year. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

AT this stage, you'll all have survived the tinsel and the turkey. 

This is the final column of this most unusual of years. If memory serves me correctly I recall for a previous New Year's offering I expressed a wish that the East Cork division would ensure that its Junior A football championship would be completed in time for the county board deadlines. 

Simpler times.

Last year, we were being entertained by both McGrath Cup and the Munster Senior Hurling League over the holidays but now they've been put into cold storage. Previously, they had to commence before the sleigh was parked up and midnight mass was over such was their importance.

Now for a wee confession. During the planning process for this week's offering, a modicum of criticism was about to be levelled at the Cork County Board in relation to the delay in announcing a management team for the county senior footballers.

Prior to the public relations department of the board issuing its statement on Monday, a member of the fourth estate brought the news to the GAA brothers and sisters on social media. How this occurred may form the next body of work for Coleen Rooney which she is finished her wee spat with Rebecca Vardy.  

Quite honestly, I can’t decipher, whether the lack of public comment on the delay was that everybody knew except yours truly? Or that a sizeable number of the public aren’t interested? I hope it’s the former!  

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Anyway, we now know that Ronan McCarthy has been handed a two-year term which if he remains at the reigns until the end of 2022, he will have served a five-year period. 

How did the public react to the news? From this vantage point, and again maybe I am somewhat offside, but I didn’t notice too much comment one way or the other. 

Two of the selectors Cian O Neill and Sean Hayes who served in 2020 remain with Bobbie O'Dwyer who managed the Cork minor football team and former Cork footballer John Hayes from Rosscarbery joining the set-up.  

Before I venture into guessing what roles each of them will play, I could suggest that it’s time to set goals for Cork 2021. 

Do we dream big or just accept that there is a body of evidence to suggest that Cork are outside the elite group assuming there is such a gathering? 

I think Cork have to go for it. On a few occasions during 2020, I expressed a wish that the club would be the centrepiece and the performance of the inter-county team would be very much secondary. 

Objective realised.  

Around the Kerry game, the Cork manager did mention that victories over the neighbours should be more the norm than is currently the case, so we will take that as a key indicator as to what we should expect.  

Just prior to Christmas, I had a call from a member of the next-door species, domiciled in this county for almost 50 years but whose choice of sporting apparel is still green and gold. Not for the first time with this gentleman, Gaelic football was a connecting conversation piece. 

He wasn't long into his stride when he informed me Cork GAA legislators should not be overly concerned by the domination of football by the Dubs as demonstrated by the 2021 project 'Tá seacht ag teacht'. They should instead reflect on the historic happenings in Limerick when the Kerry minor team became the first in the country to record a provincial eight in a row. 

Kerry's Jordan Kissane and Brian McNamara of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Kerry's Jordan Kissane and Brian McNamara of Clare. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Yes, Cork teams may have been close on a number of occasions including the recent Munster semi-final but the gentleman’s argument was that the consistent statistic was the Cork always came up short. Harsh but sadly true. 

It is a sobering stat that does not reflect well on the state of the big ball in this county.  

Can we expect the present Cork senior team to break a glass ceiling of sorts? What do you think?  

In the restructured upcoming league scheduled to begin on the last week weekend in February, Cork will operate in a four-team Division 2 South and the target must be to defeat the other three: Clare, Kildare and Laois. The top two from this section will qualify for the semi-finals with the leading two from Division 2 North: Mayo, Meath, Down and Westmeath. 

A win here must be included as it will not only mean reaching the final but it will also guarantee promotion to Division 1. Now Ronan and the remainder of your backroom team, the bar has been elevated.  

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy and coach Cian O'Neill. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy and coach Cian O'Neill. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

As the Munster championship draws have yet to be made, we will assume that a game against Kerry could be on the menu in Killarney. Time to get real here, to defeat the poked bear in the Kingdom will probably be a bridge too far. 

We will set targets for the qualifiers when the time comes. 

Cork football needs to step out from underneath the clouds of mediocrity.
Prior to the signature tune, I must thank all of you who have visited this corner over the past 12 months. Make no mistake, it is greatly appreciated. 

May I also avail of the opportunity to wish you the very best during 2021.

Contact: paudie.palmer@hotmail.com or on Twitter: @paudiep

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