Ronan McCarthy hopes Cork football is back in business
By John Harrington
Cork manager, Ronan McCarthy, hopes his team’s seismic Munster SFC semi-final victory over Kerry will lead to a mindset change in the county’s football community.
Kerry’s dominance in Munster had become so pronounced in the province in recent years that it seemed to have a withering effect on Cork football’s sense of self-worth.
But McCarthy is hopeful they can now look to the future with greater confidence.
“I always felt that there was a good cohort of players there and in a county of Cork’s size if you went looking for them you would find those players,” says McCarthy.
“A lot of things happened together for Cork, after 2013, you had a manager that had been there for six years, a lot of that team broke up quickly, there was a lot of changing of managers so there was a lack of continuity, there was a lack of continuity in the support for the players.
“Allied to that you had heart-breaking near misses, Killarney in 2015, Mayo in 2017, and the team ended up at a point like almost they did not where it was coming from, compounded by 2018 where you lose by 17 to Kerry and 16 to Tyrone.
“What I would say what the win does against the second-best team in the country, let’s be clear about it, if fellas had doubts about getting back to that level they are not there now.
“The other side of this is you go out and you have to keep doing this on a consistent basis and they will have to do it against Kerry again next year.
“Each game takes on a different momentum but what you have now in the bag is that you know that you can do it if you are properly prepared and maybe that doubt had seeped in over a number of years and now they are back in business.”
If you were a young Cork footballer sitting at home watching Mark Keane’s dramatic last-gasp winning goal against Kerry, then your ambition to make the grade yourself some day was surely sharpened.
A rising tide lifts all boats, and a win like that one will surely give Cork football a real shot of adrenalin at all levels in the county.
“It all helps,” says McCarthy. “I have said this often, I remember when Nemo played Castehaven in 1993/94 county semi-final and the midfield pairings that day were Larrry Tompkins and Niall Cahalane against Shea Fahy and Stephen O’Brien.
“What happens here with a game like this is that you can imagine club matches next year and you have these big clashes going on between our county players.
“It lifts everybody, we have seen the benefit of these under-17 and under-20 victories and some of the players who have come off the under-20s are just top class players and are great to work with.
“You gain a bit of momentum and it is great but you keep a nice, consistent steady pace and you don’t get too excited with the wins and you don’t get too despondent with the lows and you try and keep the team on a steady upwards trajectory.”
Success breeds expectation, and there’s a certain pressure on Cork now to back up that win over Kerry by defeating Tipperary in Sunday’s Munster Final.
McCarthy admits that will be a different sort of challenge, but it’s one he and his players are happy to embrace.
“We played Limerick last year in the Championship if you recall and I would have said before that game that we’re not in a position to take anyone for granted and that still applies today.
“We’ve come a distance but to be a top team operating at the top level we have to show…we have become more consistent.
“I’m not contesting that, we have become more consistent, but this is a good test now for the panel again in relation to, here now there’s a small bit of expectation and expectation brings with it pressure.
“It’ll be interesting to see are the players able to handle the pressure of that because we were quite happy, we had no interest in going into the game last week as underdogs or under the radar and, in the same way, not too interested whether we’re favourites or not favourites for this game.
“But there’s certainly an expectation now and with that, that can cause these problems so it’s a different test for us to see how we have developed and have we the maturity to handle that but, as I say, the team has become a lot more consistent over the last 18 months or so.”