Denis Hurley profiles the new Cork hurling management at minor, U20 and senior

Rebels have made some significant changes across all levels for 2022 while also building on the success of last summer
Denis Hurley profiles the new Cork hurling management at minor, U20 and senior

Cork manager Kieran Kingston and players line up against Westmeath before the league game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

At the October meeting of Cork County Board, county secretary/CEO Kevin O’Donovan paid tribute to Pat Ryan and Noel Furlong after they had stepped down as manager of the Rebels’ U20 and minor hurling teams respectively.

A memorable 2021 had seen the two men guide Cork to All-Ireland glory – twice in the case of Ryan – and O’Donovan was keen to emphasise that he expected the pair to be involved with Cork teams again in the very near future.

“They’re just stepping off the pitch for a moment,” O’Donovan said, “I expect to see them back soon.”

O’Donovan’s view was rooted in the desire to create a strong pool of coaching talent in the county, something expressed by previous county chairperson Tracey Kennedy in October 2019, when there were managerial changes made at senior, U20, minor and U16 levels.

At the time, Kieran Kingston, Ryan, Dónal Óg Cusack were all appointed and Kennedy felt that it was a signal of a clear direction.

“I truly believe that we now have a structure in place which will ensure that we can always secure the best people to lead Cork teams,” she said, “on a clear pathway for both coaches and players, from underage all the way through to senior.”

With two U20 All-Irelands and one at minor emanating from that – as well as an appearance in the senior decider – the test now is continue the good work.

While Kingston was given a three-year term on his return to the top job, there were coaching and selectorial vacancies to be filled while the U20, minor and U16 jobs were up for renewal again

Backing up O’Donovan’s words in October, Furlong has been quickly pressed into action again, taking up a selector’s role at senior level along with Pat Mulcahy as Ger Cunningham and Christy O’Connor depart. 

Conor Fitzgerald, Limerick, is tackled by Pat Mulcahy in 2006, who has moved into senior management. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE
Conor Fitzgerald, Limerick, is tackled by Pat Mulcahy in 2006, who has moved into senior management. Picture: Damien Eagers/SPORTSFILE

In addition, Gary Keegan – who was involved during Kingston’s first stint in charge – and Stephen Casey are on board as performance coach and strength & conditioning coach, indicating a big push to improve on the showing of 2021.

With Ryan stepping aside at U20 level after a perfect record across two fragmented championship years, the decision to appoint Donal O’Mahony – his second-in-command – as the new manager is a logical and shrewd one, given that a large number of this year’s team are underage again.

While selector Wayne Sherlock has departed, his replacement Tom Kenny has also recently been in the system as one of Cusack’s selectors with the 2020 minors.

And, even though the minor manager for 2022, Paudie Murray, is new in the sense that his last time in charge of a male team was the Dohenys senior footballers a decade ago, he has been building an impressive CV with the Cork camogie team in the interim, claiming four All-Irelands.

As is the recent practice, he has come up from U16 level with the development squad and will be in charge for a year, with Kieran Murphy of Sarsfields the next on that conveyor belt.

On the football side of things, there has also been recycling of personnel in what will hopefully be a win-win situation.

With Keith Ricken moving from the role of U20 manager to senior boss, replacing Ronan McCarthy, the vacancy with the U20s is filled by Bobbie O’Dywer. While O’Dwyer was a senior selector last year, he had previously been minor manager, winning the 2019 All-Ireland. Those players are now three years older and will form the backbone of the U20 side in 2022, making it a perfect fit for him and them.

Unlike the hurling, the minor football manager will remain unchanged, Michael O’Brien having been given a two-year term when he replaced O’Dwyer at the beginning of the year. The Ballincollig native led Cork to a first Munster title at the grade since 2010 and his second year in charge will see him working with the same players that he had at U15 level in 2019.

Whereas in the past it might have been the case that each Cork team was an independent silo, now there is an overarching philosophy under-pinning it all, with head of high performance Aidan O’Connell playing a key role in ensuring that everything knits together.

Manager: Kieran Kingston (Tracton)

Selectors: Diarmuid O’Sullivan (Cloyne), Noel Furlong (Carrigtwohill), Pat Mulcahy (Newtownshandrum)

Coaches: Dónal O’Grady, Ian O’Connell, Gary Keegan, Stephen Casey

As he enters the third of a three-year term, Kieran Kingston has again freshened things up. A year ago, former manager Dónal O’Grady was brought in in a coaching and advisory capacity and now, with coach/selector Ger Cunningham having stepped down along with coach Christy O’Connor, Noel Furlong and Pat Mulcahy have been added as selectors along with Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who was also involved with Kingston during his first term in charge in 2017 and 2018.

In 2021, Furlong guided Cork to a first All-Ireland minor hurling title since 2001, with the team winning each of their four games by double digits. Previously, he had led Russell Rovers to the 2020 county lower IHC final but had to step aside before the final could be played so that he could take up the Cork role.

The Mid-South Region Rebel Óg board made a presentation to the players from the area who won All-Ireland medals, Darragh O'Sullivan, James Byrne, Tadhg O'Connell, Noel Furlong County Selector James Dwyer, David Casey and Kevin Lyons, as well as manager Noel Furlong. Picture: Denis Boyle
The Mid-South Region Rebel Óg board made a presentation to the players from the area who won All-Ireland medals, Darragh O'Sullivan, James Byrne, Tadhg O'Connell, Noel Furlong County Selector James Dwyer, David Casey and Kevin Lyons, as well as manager Noel Furlong. Picture: Denis Boyle

Manager of his native Newtownshandrum this year, Mulcahy has amassed a lot of experience as manager of Cork IT in the Fitzgibbon Cup.

Aside from that pair, the additions of Gary Keegan and Stephen Casey to the backroom team are statements of intent.

Keegan has a strong CV as a high-performance coach, with the AIBA, IRFU, Cricket Ireland and Dublin senior football team among those he has worked with as well as the stint with Cork in 2017 and 2018 under Kingston and John Meyler respectively.

Casey is a top-quality strength & conditioning coach and in 2020 he achieved a unique double as he worked with Blackrock and Blarney, winning county hurling championships with both. He also has prior experience with Cork minor and U21/U20 sides.

Cork U20 hurling

Manager: Donal O’Mahony (Bishopstown)

Selectors: Brendan Coleman (Youghal), Fergal Condon (Aghada), Tom Kenny (Grenagh), Traolach Martin (Ballygarvan)

Coaches: Ger Lombard, Adam McCarthy

Pat Ryan, who had previously won the county SHC with Sarsfields in 2012 and 2014, was a popular appointment as U20 manager just over two years ago and, while he had to wait 12 months to actually take charge in a championship game, he proved that he was the right choice as he led the county to a first title in the grade since 1998.

That was in July of this year and, despite beginning the 2021 campaign just 10 days after the 2020 All-Ireland final win over Dublin, the achievement of 1997 and 1998 was matched as the title was retained with victory against Galway.

Now Ryan has opted to take a break from the inter-county scene but the structure that he put together will largely remain, which should stand to Cork. 

Tom Kenny and Donal O'Mahony combine at U20 level for next season. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tom Kenny and Donal O'Mahony combine at U20 level for next season. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Donal O’Mahony was the head coach for the last two years – previously he served on U21 and senior management teams under John Meyler – and he steps up to the role of manager while Traolach Martin, who was a member of the backroom under Ryan, becomes a selector. The Wexford native is also joint-manager of the Christian Brothers College Dr Harty Cup team.

Brendan Coleman and Fergal Condon remain in their selectorial roles and, while Wayne Sherlock had stepped down, Tom Kenny is an able replacement. The Grenagh man, an All-Ireland-winner in 2004 and 2005, was a minor selector under Dónal Óg Cusack in 2020 and has gained managerial experience with his club and with UCC.

Cork minor hurling

Manager: Paudie Murray (St Finbarr’s)

Selectors: Kevin Murray (St Finbarr’s), Declan Fitzgerald (Buttevant), Fergal McCormack (Mallow), AN Other

When Dónal Óg Cusack was appointed as minor manager for 2020, it was on a one-year basis, with Noel Furlong simultaneously confirmed as the U16 boss for 2020 and minor manager for 2021.

This was a new approach where managements would bring development squads through and it paid off this year with Furlong guiding Cork to a first All-Ireland in 20 years. Now he has transitioned to a senior selector’s role under Kieran Kingston and Paudie Murray – the co-ordinator at U16 level this year – takes over.

 Former Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray has switched to minor hurling. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Former Cork camogie manager Paudie Murray has switched to minor hurling. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

For the past decade, Murray has been Cork senior camogie selector, in which time the county has won four All-Ireland titles, while he also double-jobbed for a period as intermediate manager, with Cork winning that championship in 2018. Previously, he was manager of the Dohenys senior football team.

Murray’s brother Kevin, an All-Ireland winner with Cork in 1999, has served alongside him with Cork and is regarded as a top-quality coach – in 2011, he was involved with the UCC team that won the Cork senior football title.

Another member of the 1999 team, Fergal McCormack, is on board too while Declan Fitzgerald – part of the U20 coaching set-up under Pat Ryan – has also been appointed as a selector while a fifth name will be added in the near future.

Former Cork hurler Fergal McCormack at full tilt against Waterford in the 1998 Hurling League final at Semple Stadium. He's now a minor selector. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE
Former Cork hurler Fergal McCormack at full tilt against Waterford in the 1998 Hurling League final at Semple Stadium. He's now a minor selector. Picture: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

Waiting in the wings is Kieran Murphy of Sarsfields, who will be the U16 manager for 2022, ascending to the minor role in 2023.

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