New Cork football manager must address ongoing defensive issues

Bobbie O'Dwyer is the favourite to replace Ronan McCarthy, but whoever takes over his backroom team will be just as important
New Cork football manager must address ongoing defensive issues

Cork senior manager Ronan McCarthy and Cork minor manager Bobbie O'Dwyer in 2019. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

WHETHER it’s Bobbie O’Dwyer or someone else wearing the manager’s bib in 2022, the next Cork football boss will have one urgent item on his agenda that requires immediate attention.

Cork haemorrhaged scores by the new time towards of the season, leaking 0-22 away to Clare in the league and even lowly Westmeath managed 0-25 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

That Cork won both games in Division 2 South to retain their status for what should be a normal league next year deflected some of the attention away from an area that caused catastrophic problems in Ronan McCarthy’s last game in charge.

The Munster final defeat in Killarney wasn’t totally unexpected, but the manner of it was, Kerry romping to a 4-22 to 1-9 and that with star forward and captain David Clifford barely figuring in the list of scorers.

All possible reasons were thrown out there for public consumption as to what the underlying problems were, like light defenders, no support from further up the field to a system break-down.


The unavailability of Maurice Shanley and Daniel O’Mahony through injury didn’t help the cause, but the roots run deeper and that’s probably the biggest challenge facing the new manager.

But, even before the management team is unveiled, the new incumbent will have to use all his persuasive powers to assemble key personnel for the key positions.

There might be an obvious need for a specialist defence coach to address the aforementioned problems, but identifying the qualified personnel is one thing, getting them on board is another.

During his term as minor manager, including the 2019 All-Ireland winning season, O’Dwyer enlisted James McCarthy, Mick Hannon, James Masters, Ollie Rue O’Sullivan, Billy O’Connor, Niall Twomey, Peadar Healy and Kieran Cronin to serve as selectors.

Keith Ricken has been mentioned in dispatches, too, but he’s staying put with the U20s, so you can run the pen through his name.

Ricken coaxed Mícheál Ó Cróinín, Colm O’Neill, Maurice Moore and Pat Spratt on board, delivering the All-Ireland in 2019, also.

Whether any of them fill roles next season remains to be seen though managers tend to look to those people with whom they’ve already engaged.

The problems are obvious, setting aside the required time to offer a genuine commitment when there’s so precious little of it in most people’s everyday lives.

Time, however, is on the new man’s side provided the county board process of appointing McCarthy’s successor doesn’t drag on because the new season hasn’t taken shape yet.

Leading officers, Marc Sheehan, Kevin O’Donovan and Pat Horgan, together with Conor Counihan and Noel O’Callaghan (Cultural Officer), will decide, with O’Dwyer the obvious choice at the moment.

There are many factors in his favour. His management of the minors, on and off the pitch, earned widespread praise, and his involvement as a senior selector offers continuity.

McCarthy deserves credit for promoting many of the 2019 U20s, players like Shanley, Sean Meehan, Brian Hartnett, Cathail O’Mahony, Damien Gore, Paul Ring, Blake Murphy and Mark Cronin though the benefits won’t be seen for a few years.


What type of 2022 season awaits McCarthy’s successor is also up in the air.

The special congress on Saturday week should have dealt with the two proposals governing how the season is going to look, but that has been put back to next month.

O’Donovan, who was part of the Croke Park Calendar Review Committee which devised the proposals, repeated its importance at the monthly board meeting on Tuesday night.

“It would be vital that we brief our clubs well and that we discuss, in depth, the format of the All-Ireland and provincial championships for a trial period,” he said.

 Kevin O'Donovan, CEO/Secretary Cork County Board. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Kevin O'Donovan, CEO/Secretary Cork County Board. Picture: Jim Coughlan

I feel there is a risk of sleep-walking towards that special congress now and I believe it is a vital conversation to have in the context of Cork football and what format would suit Cork football best.

“I’m not going to pre-empt any decision of the county board, but it’s vital people would inform themselves.

“I will do my best to circulate previous reports that were drafted and had all the details.

“It’s vital it’s discussed at clubs and board level because it could be a fairly contentious debate,” O’Donovan added.

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