Collins impressed by new Cork football coaching team
By John Harrington
Cork footballer Mark Collins has been impressed by the acumen of manager Ronan McCarthy’s revamped backroom team.
McCarthy has brought in former Kildare manager Cian O’Neill as a coach, and the highly regarded S&C coach Kevin Smyth who had previously worked with French professional rugby club, Stade Francais.
“Cian O’Neill has brought serious experience you know, he’s been working with top level inter-county teams for over ten years so that’s a huge bonus for us,” says Collins.
“Also, Kevin Smyth has come in as S&C coach, he’s worked with Stade Francais for seven/eight years - he has serious experience as well, so that’s a big lift to have him too.
“To be fair to Ronan since he's come in, he's always tried to improve. He's willing to put in any time he can to help us. Everything is positive so far in there.”
Collins is one of Cork’s most experienced players now having made his senior inter-county debut in 2011.
He joined a panel that had won the All-Ireland title the previous year, but since then the Rebels have been serial underachievers.
“Definitely,” agrees Collins. “It's been a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. When I first came on the panel, we were competing for Division 1 and, you know, the aim was to win the All-Ireland.
“Plus I was involved in a couple of very good U21 teams and you were hoping that the breakthrough was going to come. Unfortunately, that didn't happen and we've chopped and changed with managers over the time and haven't performed as players.
“To be down in Division 3 is not where we want to be. It's up to us now and a few of the younger players coming through to put that right.”
The fact that Kerry have won the last seven Munster senior titles and are hot favourites to make it eight-in-a-row this year testifies to Cork’s struggles in recent times.
“Yeah, it's disappointing,” said Collins. “This is my tenth year on the panel and I've only won one Munster title. That's definitely not good enough for a county the size of us.
“I think Munster has definitely got stronger over the years since I've been involved; we've been beaten by Tipp and Clare have beaten us a couple of times in the league - they're good teams.
“It's probably underestimated a small bit. Kerry are ahead of us the last few years but the rest of it, the competition has been competitive enough.”
This year’s Division 3 Allianz Football League campaign is a vital one for the Cork footballers.
Because of the newly established two-tier All-Ireland Senior Football Championship structure, if the Rebels don’t win promotion up to Division Two then they won’t be able to compete in the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers this year unless they reach the Munster Final.
And considering they’re due to play Kerry in the Munster semi-final this year, then a place in the provincial final looks like a hard ask.
That being said, after a couple of bleak enough years for Cork football it felt like they turned a corner in 2019.
The senior team reached the All-Ireland quarter-final series and the U-20s and minors won their respective All-Ireland titles.
Many of those U-20s are now part of the senior panel, and Collins says there’s a very positive atmosphere in the camp as they get ready to play Offaly on Saturday.
“Definitely there’s a bit of a feel-good factor,” he said. “Starting back this year was maybe a small bit easier the way things finished last year.
“The under 20s and minors was a huge boost to the whole county.
Even for the supporters, trying to get them back on your side maye a small bit, it definitely helped.
“In saying that, we were probably a small bit disappointed the way it finished in the Super 8s.
“We didn’t win any of the games even though we were in contention with 10 minutes to go in all three games.
“So we know there’s a lot to improve on. But there was a good buzz going back to training alright.”