Changing the manager won't be a quick fix to Cork footballers' problems

'Time is the crucial element, because the U20s development demands a lot of patience and understanding. It simply won’t happen overnight'
Changing the manager won't be a quick fix to Cork footballers' problems

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy at Fitzgerald Stadium. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

IF Ronan McCarthy were a Premiership manager, he would have got the dreaded vote of confidence from the directors on Sunday night and be gone by lunch today.

Thankfully, the GAA doesn’t function with that cynical mentality, though the hurt of the record 22-point hammering by Kerry in the 76th Munster final between the neighbours will remain for some time.

The easy, knee-jerk, and possibly lazy, reaction would be to call for the manager’s head, but that won’t solve anything.

Cork don’t play again until next year — February at the earliest — which leaves plenty of time for discussion about the way forward for the three main constituents: The players, McCarthy, and the county board.

Central will be the new format for the 2022 season and beyond, which will be determined by the end-of-year special congress on shaping football’s future.

That is going to be critical to how Cork look ahead, because, from next year, the inter-county football season could be transformed.

On the table are two proposals basically retaining the provincial championships, but extending it to four groups of eight, meaning the likes of Wexford and Carlow could join Munster. They would be split into two groups of four, with the winners qualifying for the finals and the second- and third-placed teams, 16 in total, starting out round one of the All-Ireland.

The other option would be to move the national league into championship, with teams playing seven games in their respective divisions, before filtering into an All-Ireland series.

Who knows what the counties will vote in — possibly even a mixture of the two, with compromise the likely outcome — as provincial councils guard their patch with great zeal.

Historically, Kerry always have the upper hand on Cork, as the numbers testify. Sunday’s victory was the Kingdom’s 47th Munster final win over the Rebels, who’ve won 20, with seven drawn and one abandoned.

Kerry’s Sean O’Shea and Kevin Flahive of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Kerry’s Sean O’Shea and Kevin Flahive of Cork. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Overall, it was the 112th championship encounter between the neighbours, with Kerry on 68 wins, Cork on 31, with a dozen draws and one abandonment.

That trend has continued, with Kerry completing a seven-in-a-row from 2013 until Mark Keane’s intervention last November and Tipperary’s unexpected rise to the top.

The sobering fact is that this Kerry team is only just starting out on cutting everyone down to size. They did it in the league and showed again, on Sunday, that on their day, few, if any, are capable of living with Peter Keane’s talented side.

Kerry have champions, Dublin, in their eye-line and won’t be content just to knock them off their perch this year.

The Kingdom are still miffed that the Dubs got to the magical five-in-a-row first and then made it a half-dozen, to add vinegar to the wounds.

Long-term, that will be Kerry’s main driving force: Not only to try and match that amazing record, but better it.

Sunday may not have shown it, but Cork are on the right track in developing young players, as highlighted by Sean Meehan’s brilliant display on Kerry captain, David Clifford.

Brian Hartnett found out what life is like in the battlefield around the middle and Colm O’Callaghan’s introduction from the bench is another example.

And there would have been others, but for injuries to defenders Daniel O’Mahony, Maurice Shanley and Paul Ring, and Cathail O’Mahony in attack.

They represent the future of Cork football and they will be joined, in due course, by Diarmaid Phelan, Conor Corbett, Brian Hayes, and David Buckley from the current U20s.

Aghada’s Phelan is made for the modern game, because he’s big, strong, well able to cope with the physicality and he’s more than comfortable on the ball.

Time, however, is the crucial element, because their development demands a lot of patience and understanding. It simply won’t happen overnight.

Football cried ‘foul’ when Croke Park decided against any back-door route this summer. It’s probably just as well for Cork, because how could you lift a team, physically and psychologically, to go again next weekend or the following one?

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