John Horgan on hurling: Pat Ryan is right to look at all his options

Rebels beat Kerry and take on UCC this Tuesday but experimentation is natural in the opening weeks of the season
John Horgan on hurling: Pat Ryan is right to look at all his options

The Cork players before the game against Kerry 

THE Pat Ryan era as Cork hurling boss began as was expected, with a comprehensive victory over Kerry in the opening game of the Munster SHL.

As steps up the ladder go, this was a small one but, at the same time, important in the developmental process.

Every new man at the helm wants a positive start, getting things off on the right foot.

Kerry don’t reside at the top table of inter-county hurling but there’s just as much work being put in down there, particularly in North Kerry as there is in a lot of the other counties and that will continue to be the case.

Ryan and the rest of his management team selected a starting 15 that featured a few of the established brigade alongside those who are hoping to receive their graduaion papers further down the line.

A return of 2-30 which featured 10 different scorers wasn’t bad going on a dreary Thursday night in Tralee.

Deccie Dalton returned to the fray with a contribution of 1-7 and his progress will be monitored closely in the coming weeks because he is one of those types of players that possesses plenty of the traits that can benefit the Cork attacking formation, a strong, physical presence, one with a huge amount of scoring ability and importantly too, a free-taker with a very good success rate.

And if you want somebody to drill home a penalty, is there a better man as he exhibited last Thursday night?

PLENTY TO OFFER

Alan Cadogan split the sticks with some fine points and again the belief from this column is that the Douglas player still has a lot to offer Cork hurling. And didn’t we see that last season against Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final after his arrival from the bench?

Cormac Beausang from Midleton converted some decent points too which will boost his confidence levels while Shane Barrett put up some good scores too.

Of course, despite it being the first win of the new season, at the end of the day it will soon be consigned to just the final scoreline at the end-of-season review with far more important assignments not that far into the distance.

The pre-season process continues tonight at the Mardyke with another experimental Cork team taking on UCC in the very popular fixture that is the Canon O’Brien Cup.

The Mardyke as a venue holds cherished memories for a lot of the older generation with a couple of county finals being played there during the construction of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

It’s a venue that always lends itself to a great atmosphere and this annual challenge encounter has provided plenty of fine fare down the years.

This game always evokes memories of the great man from Innishannon whose contribution to Cork hurling and to that great academy, UCC was immense.

The Canon, as he was affectionately known, passed away a number of years ago but the memory of his achievements will endure.

In fact, one would go a long way to find anybody who could come near equalling what he achieved at county, club and third level.

He masterminded two of Cork’s greatest All-Ireland victories, the Centenary year of 1984 alongside Justin McCarthy and the double winning year of 1990 alongside Gerald McCarthy.

He was the man who led UCC to 10 Fitzgibbon Cup triumphs, eight of them in a row from 1981 to 1988.

Some of country’s greatest players, subsequently legends of the game learned their trade under him and as a motivator, he had few if any equals.

In the great hurling homes of the Rockies, Ballinhassig, Argideen Rangers and Tracton, county titles were annexed as were Dr Harty Cups in that former great hurling academy of St Finbarr’s Farranferris.

He was, quite rightly, described as a giant of Cork hurling.

One of those who had a very successful innings under him was UCC Gaelic Games Administrator, John Grainger.

He was a key figure on many of those successful UCC-winning Fitzgibbon teams and when the great man was called to his eternal reward, Grainger spoke glowingly of the legacy that he left behind.

The Canon came into UCC in 1981 and I feel his arrival was the start of making the Fitzgibbon Cup what it is today, a major competition on the GAA calendar.

“Everywhere he went he was hugely respected," he said.

Canon Michael O'Brien during training for the Cork County SHC. final. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Canon Michael O'Brien during training for the Cork County SHC. final. Picture: Denis Minihane.

Cork hurling certainly owes him a great debt of gratitude and the trophy that will be played for tonight is a fitting tribute to somebody who gave so much.

The Canon O’Brien Cup game offers the new Cork management another chance to have a further look at some of the young players that have been brought into the preliminary panel.

In these situations, many are called, maybe not that many are chosen but for the chosen players here, opportunity comes knocking.

UCC, preparing for another tilt at the Fitzgibbon, will use the game as an important part of their preparation process for that very prestigious competition.

The game up the ‘Dyke is always competitive and who knows it could well be the game that launches an inter-county career.

Canon O’Brien’s list of Honours:

  • St Finbarr’s College • Dr Croke Cup (3): 1969, 1972, 1974 
  • Dr Harty Cup (5): 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974
  • University College Cork • Fitzgibbon Cup (10): 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991
  • Argideen Rangers • Cork Junior Hurling Championship (1): 1996
  • Ballinhassig • Cork Intermediate Hurling Championship (2): 1975, 1977
  • Blackrock • Cork Senior Hurling Championship (2): 1985, 1999
  • Tracton • Cork Intermediate Hurling Championship (1): 1991
  • Cork Junior Hurling Championship (1): 1979
  • Cork All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship (2): 1984, 1990 • Munster Senior Hurling Championship (5): 1984, 1985, 1990, 1992 
  • National Hurling League (1): 1992-93 
  • All-Ireland Junior Hurling Championship (1): 1983 
  • All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship (6): 1969, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1978, 1979 
  • Philips Sports Manager of the Year (1): 1990

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