Sean Powter remains optimistic and realistic
By Cian O'Connell
In a year when Cork's footballers were plagued by inconsistency the true senior arrival and emergence of Sean Powter hinted at a brighter future.
A central figure in Cork's march to the 2016 EirGrid All Ireland Under 21 Final when beaten in a classic by Mayo, Powter enjoyed a productive Championship in 2017 at the highest level.
Powter's form was rewarded with inclusion on the International Rules panel and the versatile Cork star is relishing the return to inter-county action.
Last weekend Cork proved too strong for Waterford so Ronan McCarthy's new look team now face Clare in the McGrath Cup Final at Mallow on Saturday.
A fresh era is imminent in down south. "Yeah, absolutely," Powter admits. "We were growing up looking at the likes of (Michael) Shields, Eoin Cadogan and Ken (O'Halloran) playing for Cork, dreaming about playing with them.
"Now that they're going, it's kind of making you feel a bit old in yourself. Seeing the young fellas coming in like (Stephen) Sherlock. It's just being optimistic really.
I think we'll be there or thereabouts. Ronan (McCarthy) brought in a new approach, be free and enjoy the game of football which is what we are doing this year I think."
Powter was impressed with Cork's display against Waterford. "A lot of young fellas there now," Powter says. "Stephen Sherlock scored 0-7, Sean Wilson, Kevin Flahive, they were all involved with the Cork team that got to the All-Ireland against Mayo.
"We're optimistic about the year coming, but we've to be realistic as well. We got hammered by Kerry last year. So the main goal is being realistic and being competitive, that's the main thing."
Promotion is the objective for Cork. "I think for now we're setting the aim to get promotion out of Division Two because last year we probably should have beat a few teams that we drew with like Down in Páirc Uí Rinn and Galway up in Galway, we should have beaten them. But the main aim for the start of the season anyway is to get promotion to Division One."
That journey starts with an interesting January 27 encounter against Tipperary under the Pairc Ui Chaoimh lights.
"First game in new Páirc Uí Chaoimh so I can't wait for that," Powter acknowledges. "It's going to be a great occasion. It'll be the first time for many of the players playing in the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh. So hopefully we can make history there."
Powter remembers his last appearance at the famous Leeside venue. "I played a couple of times, yeah," Powter recalls. "I played in the last game there with Rochestown in an O'Callaghan Cup hurling game against Midleton CBS. We got to play the last game there which is kind of iconic."
Despite an erractic League campaign and a disappointing Munster Final loss to Kerry, Cork came within a whisker of defeating Mayo in an absorbing Gaelic Grounds Qualifier. "It was actually annoying seeing Mayo get so far," Powter states.
"You think we could be there if we get consistency. The main thing is last year we didn't perform, we performed in one game all year. It's just disappointing we couldn't do it against Kerry and Tipperary for 60-70 minutes."
Powter subsequently earned a call-up to Joe Kernan's Ireland panel for the trip to Australia. "Things just fell into place," Powter says modestly. "I personally felt the first year I wasn't fit enough for inter-county football.
"I didn't really have a pre-season, I was brought in after 21's and I was injured so I didn't really get to the fitness they're at. "Last year I was allowed have a pre-season and get up to a level injury free. That was the main thing injury free got me to proper fitness. That's how I drove on."
Was Powter surprised to be involved with the International Rules team? "I thought personally because I was too small I wouldn't be called in at all. But then Darragh Ó Sé asked me in for trials and I was absolutely delighted. Also the fact that I didn't make the original panel and was a late inclusion, made it all the more sweeter.
"When you're playing with the likes of Aidan O'Shea, Conor McManus, Michael Murphy, it's an experience you can't get anywhere else."
The next couple of weeks and months will be spent with UCC working under Billy Morgan's stewardship. Yeah, he's still there," Powter replies. "This is my first year under him. I was a Fresher last year and he wasn't involved. Personally I think he's just a special manager, he makes you feel there's a special bond between the players.
"You could have a 10 or 15 minute conversation with him about anything, I think he's special."
Powter remains adamant that Cork have sufficient ability to develop. "Yeah there is good talent there considering Nemo (Rangers) beat Dr Crokes and they're hopefully going to go on and win the All-Ireland now.
"There is definitely talent there. It's just getting the balance right. I think it's just belief as well. I personally believe every game we're going into we're going to win." Such attitude and application continues to serve Powter well.