THE quick appointment of Pat Ryan as the new Cork senior hurling manager, so soon after Cork’s exit from the 2022 championship, has to be viewed as a huge positive as it ensures that the season just gone can quickly be forgotten with the focus firmly on the future.
After previous manager Kieran Kingston had stepped away from the hot seat Cork hurling needed a new voice and with that in mind Pat Ryan appeared to be the best person in place to be that voice.
There may have been other candidates considered but ultimately it was always going to be the Sarsfields club man’s role to refuse given his impressive managerial record.
The County titles that he won with Sars back in 2012 and 2014 certainly look good on the CV but what really made him the easy candidate to turn to were the pair of U20 All Ireland’s he won in 2020 and 2021, as Cork won their first titles in that grade since 1998, when Ryan himself was part of the team.
Not only does this show that he has the knack and know-how to get a team over the line in a big national competition but it also means that he is best placed to be the guy who transitions a lot of these All Ireland U20 winners to the senior grade.
Ciaran Joyce, Alan Connolly, Daire O’Leary, Shane Barrett and Tommy O’Connell have already made the leap to representing Cork in the championship at senior level but we can expect Ryan to be calling on a significant number of the rest of his 2020 and 2021 crew in the next couple of years.
The Roche twins Eoin and Brian from Bride Rovers, Eoin Downey from Glen Rovers, Ethan Twomey from St Finbarr’s, Midleton’s Sam Quirke, Kanturk’s Brian O’Sullivan, Liscarroll’s Colin O’Brien and Ballygiblin’s Darragh Flynn look the most likely in this regard.
If Ryan had been passed over now it would have amounted to a huge mistake for Cork GAA, one that they had made a decade earlier in football that just couldn’t be repeated.
Castlehaven’s John Cleary looked favourite to take over as Cork senior manager after he had been involved with two All Ireland U21 and eight Munster U21 triumphs between 2004 and 2013 as either a selector and manager.
In any other county it would have been the obvious move, and indeed a given, for Cleary to progress to the role of senior manager at that time, but it never happened for whatever reason.
I’m not claiming that Cleary could have cured all the ills that Cork football has faced since, but certainly not appointing the clear obvious candidate at the right time is not a good starting point.
This has been avoided with the appointment of Ryan.
We can expect him to be a popular appointment with supporters and players alike, and going on what his U20 teams produced we can expect a more direct approach, when it’s on, and a clear emphasis on manic work rate.
That will certainly be a good foundation.
It will be interesting to see whether the likes of Declan Dalton and Colin O’Brien, and others who were not part of the recent Cork set up, are called up by Ryan in the coming months.
With a new regime it’s a clean slate for everyone and there are bound to be winners and losers when the new panel starts to take shape.
Ryan himself was quick to stress this in his first interview as Cork’s manager: “That’s one thing I’d stress – there’s a blank slate there for everybody and any player who can compete. And that means players of every age, and players from everywhere."
It will probably be some time before we get a realistic barometer of what kind of Cork side we can expect next year in terms of how they will line up and how they will play.
The first few challenge matches and early season tournaments will certainly be watched with a great deal of interest on Leeside.
The next big news will undoubtedly centre around Ryan’s backroom team which Ryan expects to be formulised by the end of this month.
Again, quality candidates are available throughout the county and it will be extremely interesting to see who Ryan turns to.
There will probably be a huge temptation for Ryan to turn to the managerial team that helped him guide Cork to those two U20 All-Ireland’s but that remains to be seen.