RONAN McCARTHY begins his fourth and possibly most important Munster Senior Football Championship at the helm of Cork football next weekend against a Limerick side that caught the Douglas man’s charges on the hop in 2020.
That McGrath Cup final win, along with Limerick’s impressive championship opening win over Waterford two weekends ago will have heightened the expectation in Treaty circles but McCarthy, for one, isn’t surprised by Limerick’s threat.
“I think people have said that Limerick could be a threat after their performance last weekend, but people seem to have a very short memory. They beat us in the McGrath Cup final last year above in the Gaelic Grounds and were well deserving of that.
“I think Billy Lee has done a fantastic job with them so we didn’t need to see that game against Waterford to know that this was going to be a difficult game for us.”
McCarthy, speaking at a press conference in The Munster Technological University (MTU), spoke about how his side has been going since the end of the 2021 Allianz National League and the positives that he and his squad have taken from the experience.
“The first positive from the league this year is that in a normal league of seven games when you lose your first match you are under pressure immediately, but in a three-game league you are under massive pressure if the first one goes against you — and for us not only did we lose our first game, but our next two were going to be away from home so I thought we responded very well to that and kept our nerve.
“The same in the Westmeath game when we were 11-7 down when we were kind of open and conceding scores easily — we kept at it and got through.
“Our positives from that league really were that we came through a very challenging league, and managed to stay in the division, even though we had had aspirations to do more than that.
“I think we also had some really positive forward play with good scores. We had a good league from the point of getting players in, new players, and extending our panel. Overall I thought it was a positive league for us.
“Since the league, training has gone really good. I suppose with Cian O’Neill and Kevin Smith, the quality of the work we do night in and night out is of the highest standard and ultimately that is where the work is done.
“You often have a lot of window dressing around sides with stats and analysis and that kind of thing, and I am not saying that is not important, of course, it is, but the most important thing we have is the three nights a week we have together and to make sure that is of the highest quality, and with Cian, a proven coach at this level, and obviously with Kevin leading that, every night we come in the guys get quality work.”
McCarthy has made some heavy-weight additions to his managerial ticket and the manager believes that all are adding significantly to the effort.
“I think every year you want to add to your backroom, the same for the team, and over the years we have had some really great people involved. This year we added Bobbie O’Dwyer with his managerial experience, you have John (Hayes) who was a top player, both at inter-county and at club level. John is also a real student of the game and I think they have really added to us.
“What we look at then is the dynamic of the group and it has been very positive. The key thing there is that Bobbie and John, as well as Sean [Hayes] and Cian over the last number of years, are willing to challenge and that is key because what you don’t want is a group that are always agreeing with each other.
We thrash things out, we discuss them — it’s an open and frank discussion about players and systems and tactics and that is the only way to be successful — by challenging each other.”
McCarthy has seen a number of players retire from his squad since 2017 with Ciaran Sheehan the most recent to call time on his inter-county career.
“Ciaran is a loss from both (player and around dressing room) points of view but what I will say is, and I have said this to many players over the years, the likes of Donncha O’Connor, Colm O’Neill, Ciaran, Tom Clancy from Fermoy, those types of guys, it is great to have them around the dressing room and stuff like that, but ultimately you have to be able to bring something to the pitch. Players must be able to bring something to us as a playing group and that is the first criteria.
“We would never keep someone just because they were good in the dressing room. So what I would say is that Ciaran is certainly a loss to us. If you look at it over the last number of years we have had the likes of Ciaran, James Loughrey, Tom Clancy, players like Paul Kerrigan stepping away, that type of player, but I don’t think it has had the impact it may once have had.
“I think we have been farsighted in the way we have developed the panel so we are not waiting two or three years to develop a player to replace one that has left so while we are sad to see these players go, it is a case of next man up. That is the way it has to be.”
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