Cork hurling fans were expecting a new manager to come in so Kieran Kingston's return will be a bold gamble

Stage is set for the current Rebel boss to get a sixth season in charge but supporters will expect a big season to justify it
Cork hurling fans were expecting a new manager to come in so Kieran Kingston's return will be a bold gamble

Cork manager Kieran Kingston watches Patrick Horgan in the warm-up in Thurles. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

IT was reported last week that outgoing Cork hurling manager Kieran Kingston was offered a one-year extension by Cork County Board officials in the immediate aftermath of the one-point defeat to Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final at Semple Stadium.

The same report, from The Irish Examiner, stated that the Cork senior hurling panel wanted Kingston to stay on for the 2023 season. This announcement came as a surprise, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the Galway defeat was still extremely raw and fresh in the memory when this story broke.

It seemed strange on the back of what was such a disappointing result, which ensured that Cork’s campaign could only have been seen as a regressive one.

Secondly, Kingston’s tenure was officially up. He had completed his three-year term.

The belief, at least from outside the camp, was that someone new would be stepping in for 2023 to offer a fresh voice for Cork.

That's why the “speculation about my future disappointing and disrespectful to the Cork hurlers” reaction by Kingston himself to Éamonn Murphy’s piece in these pages about the possibility of Davy Fitzgerald or another outsider taking over was such a surprise.

This reaction was the first inkling that Kingston was not stepping aside. The piece saying he was being offered a new one-year extension soon followed.

To say that the reaction to this news has been universally negative would be an understatement and it would be remiss of us not to comment on this. Cork hurling supporters were clearly expecting a new manager to be at the helm.

In making a case for Kingston to remain on there are certainly a couple of factors in his favour.

He is clearly very well thought of by the panel, which can only be a positive in terms of squad harmony. Also, if he remains on one more year it may serve as a means of aiding a potential successor to bed into the set-up in a transitional sense.

Cork's Darragh Fitzgibbon is congratulated by manager Kieran Kingston after scoring a point against Galway. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher
Cork's Darragh Fitzgibbon is congratulated by manager Kieran Kingston after scoring a point against Galway. Picture: INPHO/Tom Maher

Such a move is certainly not without its merits, but it is extremely risky from another perspective.

Kieran Kingston owes nothing to Cork. He came in as a selector as part of Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s backroom team in 2011 and was coach when they won the Munster title in 2014.

He then took over as Cork manager for the 2016 season, but that one ended with a disappointing qualifier defeat to Wexford in Thurles.

2017 was much better, as the Munster title was bagged, and only for a red card to Damien Cahalane in the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Waterford who knows how the season would have ended.

He then stepped away only to return in late 2019. His first year back was not great, losing another qualifier, this time to Tipp, but 2021 was certainly a success, as Cork reached the All-Ireland final, only to be undone by the green Limerick machine.

This year, however, was another step backwards, if we're being honest. A heavy defeat in the league final to Waterford was followed by disappointing championship losses to Limerick, Clare and Galway.

From afar, the 2022 campaign was one where the Cork hurlers struggled to identify how they wanted to play.

The early season overreliance on Mark Coleman as a deep-lying playmaker, where Cork seemed to confuse themselves with their over-elaborate approach, was not working. When they went more direct against Waterford and Tipperary in the championship the team seemed to get a new lease of life, but it was probably too late in the year to be attempting a completely different approach.

The damage had been done early in the year.

RESPECTED

Ultimately, Kingston has had two successful years out of five as Cork hurling manager, while coming up short in terms of winning the big one.

He is an extremely popular hurling man on Leeside and is highly thought of by all Cork hurling people.

He must realise, though, that if he stays on for sixth year and has similar results to this year then he risks damaging his legacy, as most will be of the opinion that he stayed on too long. The pressure will be intense.

If he goes on and wins an All-Ireland in 2023 then going for that sixth year will have to be considered one of the boldest, gutsiest moves in Cork hurling’s history.

It certainly is a big call.

Cork manager Kieran Kingston at Corrigan Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cork manager Kieran Kingston at Corrigan Park. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

The County Board meets in early July and the decision on the Cork hurling manager for 2023 will be made then.

A lot of water will have flowed beneath the bridge between the Galway defeat and that crucial meeting.

It will certainly be watched with great interest by all Cork hurling supporters.

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