Dealing with people over 'players' is key to developing a young GAA team

Cork footballers look to integrate more new faces into senior squad
Dealing with people over 'players' is key to developing a young GAA team

Ciarán Sheehan of Cork during the McGrath Cup final. He's the last of the 2010 All-Ireland winning panel still involved with his county. Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

ONE thing new Cork football selectors Bobbie O’Dwyer and John Hayes have in common is All-Ireland final success.

In 2019, O’Dwyer managed Cork to the All-Ireland minor title nine years after Hayes helped bring back the Sam Maguire Cup to Leeside.

Apart from Ciaran Sheehan, who is now the only survivor from the 2010 victory over Down following Paul Kerrigan’s retirement, no other Cork player has a Celtic Cross medal in their collection.

Coach Cian O’Neill also has previous All-Ireland victories in both football and hurling during his time with Tipperary hurlers and Kerry footballers.

I interviewed O’Dwyer in the week of the minor final against Galway and the Urhan-native provided a fascinating insight into his role in developing 16- and 17-year-old youngsters.

“We work with the boys to ensure a performance is given, but I stress, however, it’s one part of their character,” he said at the time.

“When we spoke to the lads at the start of the year we highlighted three things when we’re trying to develop a player.

We look at their attitude. What is their commitment like? We look at their humility, their ability to link in with the team and the understanding that team trumps the individual.

“Once they fit into that category and all our boys do, we have found them to be super people.

“Not all of them are going to play senior football for Cork, but the hope is that they all become top-class young people,” O’Dwyer added.

His own background is also interesting because he played much of his adult football in London, where he worked for AIB for a decade.

And O’Dwyer picked up valuable experience in managing O’Donovan Rossa, Macroom, Legion in Killarney, and his own club, Urhan. He also believes there’s a connection between business and sport.

“It does help in that you’re used to bringing a team with you though I use the word manager loosely.

“On the people side of it, we are all trained, whether it be sales, the analytical side, marketing, whatever the skill set, but the biggest challenge you’re dealing with is handling people.”

The usual pattern along the managing/coaching route would take in the U20 set-up, but O’Dwyer has by-passed that age-group and brought directly into Ronan McCarthy’s senior camp on a two-year term.

He’ll team up with fellow selector Sean Hayes in completing the management team in a season that will feature a promotion bid from Division 2 in the league before entering the championship den.

It’s obviously a seismic change from dealing with starry-eyed youngsters, who mop up everything like a sponge, to dealing with crusty old warriors, but O’Dwyer’s experience and knowledge of the game are sure to be a plus.

John Hayes’s appointment also came out of the blue and yet it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, when you delve into the background a bit more.

That’s particularly true of 2016, when McCarthy was coaxed down to Rosscarbery and guided Carbery Rangers to that elusive county senior title, having lost to Ballincollig a couple of years before.

The Cork manager would have gleaned much from Hayes’s immense contribution to the Andy Scannell Cup triumph and McCarthy clearly saw a role for the star forward.

What’s unusual about the 36-year-old Hayes is that he will continue to line-out for Ross in what will be a remarkable 20th campaign, having started out in junior ranks.

A quick flick through the pages from that 2016 campaign immediately brings Hayes’s importance to the fore in terms of his scoring contribution.

John Hayes celebrates a goal against Ballincollig. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
John Hayes celebrates a goal against Ballincollig. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He compiled 2-27 in his five outings, finishing third in the scoring charts behind Ballincollig’s Cian Dorgan and fellow Cork player Colm O’Neill, who helped Avondhu qualify for the last four.

Ross were slow enough starters, needing extra-time to edge past Clyda Rovers by a point when Hayes top-scored with 1-4.

They had four points to spare over Douglas in the next round, Hayes chipping in with 0-6, before Ross’s bandwagon began moving up a few gears, easily overcoming Valley Rovers and Avondhu before edging Ballincollig 1-15 to 1-12 in the final.

Hayes’ 1-8 against the north Cork selection reflected his importance.

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