One of the areas of the Cork team that requires the most surgery is at midfield, a sector Ronan McCarthy will give plenty of thought to over the winter months, writes Peter McNamara.
In the Munster SFC final, Ian Maguire was the Leesiders’ leading light, particularly in the first-half and, next year, he should cement his place in one of the two midfield slots as Cork attempt to revitalise their fortunes.
McCarthy, additionally, may give serious thought to the suggestion Maguire should be partnered by Nemo Rangers’ Alan O’Donovan.
Throughout the last number of campaigns with his club, O’Donovan has incrementally improved year after year and is worth drafting in for Cork’s Allianz NFL Division 2 series of fixtures to see if he can cut the mustard at the highest level.
From the evidence on offer, it seems as if O’Donovan would flourish upped in grade. His work-ethic is outstanding with his performances defined by his selflessness.
Sometimes, players’ club form can be dismissed all too easily. There have been performers on the Cork SFC scene in the last three or four years that have dipped in and out of the Rebels’ squad, but O’Donovan is definitely one of those that could contribute bundles of energy to a chain of the team crying out for fresh legs.
Next Sunday week, when Nemo contest the Cork SFC final against Maguire’s St Finbarr’s, we may see the two players in question tasked with trying to negate the other as the city outfits seek county success.
If that potential match-up comes to pass, it is likely to be one of the most compelling clashes on the field.
In fact, whoever comes out on top there could ensure their side has a definitive edge in the decider because the attacking divisions within both camps are formidable.
Regardless, a Maguire-O’Donovan Cork midfield axis in 2018 could develop into an extremely positive partnership.
McCarthy will appreciate that deciding on a primary duo in midfield will take away a huge chunk of negativity that has surrounded the panel in recent seasons.
O’Donovan can only produce the goods at the level he is currently operating at so it is an unknown if he can step up on a permanent basis.
However, given sufficient time to thrive within the Cork group, there exists confidence that he will indeed become one of the more important cogs in the wheel as McCarthy seeks to restructure his unit.
McCarthy will also be pleased with the form of Luke Connolly following his personal return of 3-3 for Nemo in their respective semi-final meeting with Duhallow.
If you speak to Connolly he will tell you himself that he needs to find more consistency within his game. Yet, you would do well to find a forward that works harder than him outside of match-days. His attitude towards continually improving as a player is top-class and in McCarthy’s first season in charge next year, the Nemo operator can nail down a starting berth with Cork.
Furthermore, if Connolly can add greater consistency to his performances, he has the potential to become one of the most feared attackers in the province.
McCarthy and his management team will surely be eager to nurture his prowess and harness it in such a way that facilitates the addition of consistency to Connolly’s game.
Cork require at least one more forward to really put his head above the parapet in 2018 and establish himself as a reliable force. Connolly can be that man.
Yet, Connolly will be one of many players on display in the county final that will have designs on impressing McCarthy.
Another of those is St Finbarr’s Stephen Sherlock.
The corner-forward registered 0-9 of the Barr’s total of 3-14, a tally which included three sweet points in open play.
He is young, yes, but not young enough to pass over from McCarthy’s viewpoint.
Cork’s new supremo will most likely monitor Sherlock’s output next Sunday week on the premise the forward is somebody he may be inclined to include in early-season panels, at the very least.
Sherlock is producing top-class displays all the time for the southside club, but injuries have had an impact on his development, as we all know.
With that in mind, he is a player that needs protecting, to a degree, in an attempt to minimise the risk of aggravating any previous damage.
Yet, he is one of the most highly regarded talents in the county, and has been for some time.
There is a theory out there that Sherlock may not work hard enough out of possession to make a real impression at inter-county level.
However, he has time on his side to add that to his repertoire of qualities.
When Sherlock is focused, he can be bordering on the unplayable, and that was always the case with him, even during his underage playing days.
Now he has an opportunity to cement the thought-process he could offer Cork another attacking option by maintaining his form and performing to a high standard again, against Nemo.
Larry Kavanagh’s charges are odds-on favourites to deny their rivals in the final.
To be realistic, Nemo’s final-day nous and experience should be sufficient for them to win on the day.
Nevertheless, a bit like the Galway hurlers, for years the Barr’s have possessed the players to land the title without realising their potential.
Ray Keane, though, seems to have found the key to unlocking that potential.
Therefore, it would be a genuine surprise if there is anything more between the teams than a score or two.
Kavanagh and co might find this to be the most difficult assignment they have had for a few years.
The Barr’s have that much going for them right now.