Donal O'Grady can offer exactly what the Cork hurlers need

Former Rebel boss is known for his defensive and tactical expertise
Donal O'Grady can offer exactly what the Cork hurlers need

Cork manager Donal O'Grady with Joe Deane at Croke Park in 2003. He'll be back on the sideline this season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare 

THE news that All-Ireland winning coach Donal O'Grady will work with Kieran Kingston and his selectors this season is a boost for Cork hurling fans.

The St Finbarr's club man comes in to fill a coaching and analysis role under current bainisteoir Kieran Kingston. With a sharp eye for match-ups and a reputation as a defensive expert, O'Grady seems an ideal fit for a group that lack the structure, discipline and controlled aggression at the back needed in a successful inter-county team.

Speculation on Leeside recently had linked Donal Óg Cusack, minor manager last year, and former Waterford boss Derek McGrath with the Rebel set-up. Those would have been radical changes and no doubt Cusack's time will come.

O'Grady is a blast from the past but a very welcome addition all the same. His approach in 2003 and '04, build on by John Allen from the running and support play template utilised by Newtownshandrum, transformed hurling. 

He has a shrewd insight into the modern game as shown in his excellent columns for The Irish Examiner, and appearances on TG4 and RTÉ. 

Hurling is about work-rate, tackling, protecting possession and racking up points these days. All trademarks of Cork under O'Grady in 2004, when they captured Liam MacCarthy. 

He's been involved with the club game in the meantime, last season managing the Barrs' U16s, though his last inter-county position was with Limerick back in 2014.

You can be sure O'Grady wouldn't be coming in unless he felt he had something substantial to offer. Defensive steel and tactical cuteness are areas the Rebels simply have to improve in to have any chance of getting back into the mix as All-Ireland contenders.

While 2019 and last season were bitter disappointments, Cork were Munster champions in 2017 and '18 and have the raw talent to challenge again. What will be interesting is how O'Grady gels with Kingston and selectors Ger Cummingham and Diarmuid O'Sullivan, all big personalities.

Donal O'Grady and Jimmy Barry-Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Donal O'Grady and Jimmy Barry-Murphy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Former Munster rugby player Cathal Sheridan, a Sligo man, has also been added to the backroom as a sport and performance psychologist. Christy O'Connor, a columnist with The Echo and ex-Clare goalkeeper, is still involved.

Like all inter-county teams, Cork don't know when they'll be allowed to return to the training pitch or if the leagues will commence in late February as planned by the GAA. For now, the squad is working away on preseason programmes at home and meeting via Zoom.

There are a host of changes to the panel, with Anthony Nash, Stephen McDonnell, Aidan Walsh, Conor Lehane and Chris Joyce among those now gone. Nash is set to move from his club Kanturk to hurl with South Liberties in Limerick this year. Both his parents are Shannonsiders, with his cousin Barry Nash at corner-back for Limerick last season.

ALL-STARS

On a positive note, Mark Coleman and Shane Kingston were included in the list of hurling nominations for the PwC All-Stars announced last week.

Coleman, an All-Star at wing-back in 2017, was superb in the Rebels' three games, while Kingston asserted his status as one of the team's marquee forwards, following on from a great Fitzgibbon Cup campaign with UCC and excellent form for Douglas.

Patrick Horgan, an All-Star for three years in a row between 2017 and '19, as well as 2013, was unlucky not to make the list, while Seamus Harnedy, a winner in 2013 and '18, was on song against Dublin and Tipp.

FOOTBALL

Cork football captain Ian Maguire was among the football nominees.

Despite beating Kerry, the poor display in the provincial final loss to Tipp mean the St Finbarr's club man is the only Rebel in the mix for a PwC All-Star.

Rookie Seán Meehan and attacker Luke Connolly were the only other Cork footballers aside from the captain to perform well in both championship outings. However, there can be no complaints from Leeside with the shortlist, which features 10 different counties.

The last Cork football All-Stars were Aidan Walsh and Colm O'Neill in 2012 when the county last lifted the Munster title. Only Brian Hurley, last year, Sean Powter, in 2016, and now Maguire have even been nominated since.

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