Perhaps last Sunday encapsulated what has gone wrong with Cork.
A bold statement? Possibly, but it’s one that has done the rounds since. From 20 minutes into the first half, right until the final whistle, Cork lost themselves. They struggled to get to grips with not just the game, but the system Waterford played. A lot of Rebel optimists have said that the opening 20 minutes could indicate Cork are headed somewhere. If so, what happened for the rest of the game, and second, in all honesty, what supporter would be satisfied with their team only firing for 20 minutes?
The stark reality is this, Cork were beaten by Waterford in the Allianz League final 4 weeks previous, because they failed to answer what Waterford threw at them. They lost the Munster championship for more or less the same reason. Either, it is the fault of the manager, for not putting the appropriate tactics in place, or the fault of the players, for not putting them into practice. Either way, someone needs to take the blame and attempt to move the thing froward if Cork are to salvage their championship. When Jimmy Barry Murphy reprised his role as manager , his presence built an inner belief that Cork could return to the big time. Fast forward to 2015, that seems to have become more of a pipe dream than a genuine realistic goal. Is it time now, for JBM to hold his hands up and say look’ I’ve taken this team as far it can go, but maybe it is a young man’s game now. Nonsense, if Brian Cody followed that idea, he would have walked into the sunset ages ago. If Jimmy Barry Murphy continues with the approach he had in 1999, Cork are going nowhere fast.
The problem is, whether Cork people want to hear this or not, there are deeply embedded problems not just within the Cork senior team, but the whole hurling scene in itself. Club, and underage structures. How about this, Cork have not won an under 21 since 1997, and a minor since 2001, and are going into their TENTH YEAR without a senior title. Their clubs are not making the grade nationally either, with smaller clubs such as Kanturk having as much representation as the more well known clubs. With nothing coming in at underage, Cork have had to revert back to relying on the current club scene. Tony Considine said in one of his articles that one third of the Cork team are not up to the standard of inter county hurling. Harsh, yes but is he right? Another reason could be that the strikes that hampered the county in the early noughties might have contributed to Cork being behind in terms of player development. A strike is something that can make underage standards slip and if a county loses that standard , it can have devastating consequences. The sad part is, Cork are, or were one of the main hurling powerhouses. Now I won’t entertain the notion that Cork don’t have the players, because it’s simply bogus. They do have the players, but maybe the players that they need are not playing for Cork. First things first, they need to stop trying to turn footballers into hurlers. Keep the football and hurling underage systems separate, and they won’t have to. Belief is central to all of this. If Cork can generate confidence into their underage structures, young players will buy into that. Put it this way if Cork can produce the likes of Christy Ring, Joe Deane and Kevin Hennessy, they can produce players of the same calibre. Cork needs players as good as these, and I refuse to believe they don’t have them,
Presently if they want to retain their chances of still being in the frame in August, Cork have to go back to square one. First they’ll have to wait to see who they get for the first round, which is where luck will have to be on their side. Ideally, they will benefit from a few tough games to see where they are at. Secondly, they will have to find a place for Patrick Horgan to flourish. He was completely blotted out by Noel Connors, so by possibly moving him out the field, maybe to centre forward or even midfield, he will be a lot more involved in the play. He is an exceptional player, his deadly accuracy from frees will hurt teams, so Cork need to utilize that further. The forward line needs to gel as a unit, and build a gameplan which allows them to strike the oppistions defence as a single cohesive unit, ruthless and unforgiving.
The state of Cork hurling is uncertain at present, but provided that County board gets their house in order, it won ‘t be uncertain for long.