Tompkins: Who is going to die for the Cork jersey?

Cork’s Rúairí Deane battling for the ball with Clare’s Dale Masterson in Sunday’s Allianz FL Division 2 clash in Ennis. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Former Cork boss and captain Larry Tompkins says the county’s under fire footballers must show greater commitment to the cause.

Results like the eight-point defeat to Clare in Ennis on Sunday reconfirmed to Tompkins that some of the players are “too soft to really make it happen”.

Yet to win any of their opening three Division Two fixtures, he doesn’t question the quality of players in the county but thinks their desire to succeed in the Cork jersey is severely lacking.

“You saw that great game between Kerry and Dublin. I had a few of those Kerry boys in UCC a few years ago and their attitude was always right. If you were to have training at 6am they’d be the first ones there. If there were no showers afterwards they wouldn’t complain. They don’t want a red carpet going out; they want to play for Kerry and will do anything to play for them.

“Mark Keane from Mitchelstown, I can say he is the best young player I’ve seen since I came to Cork but now he’s gone to Australia. He’s 6ft4in, can kick with both feet and is 18 years of age. That is a massive loss. There’s still a lot of good players in Cork but they have to decide if Cork football means everything to them because if it doesn’t, then you’re better getting fellas who are committed. You have to die for the jersey. That’s what people want to see. It’s not a case of winning or losing, it’s having admiration for the fella who is going to die for the Cork jersey.”

Tompkins hasn’t seen enough grit for his liking in Cork’s displays.

Are they fit enough, are they strong enough, are they ruthless enough? Is it the first thing in their lives? It’s not about their ability but their attitude and application. I see Mark Collins playing for Castlehaven kicking seven or eight points from midfield. He gives exhibitions during the county championship but with Cork he doesn’t seem to be that player. Whether he’s afraid to shoot with Cork I don’t know but he’s a hell of a player.

Tompkins takes a dim view of Cork football’s five-year plan. “I don’t believe in plans. If I was a player with Cork, I wouldn’t want to be looking at a five-year plan. You’re in the county of Cork. No disrespect to Carlow, Wicklow, or Leitrim but these plans would be for those counties who haven’t formed tradition or don’t have the club structure. Cork have the players but they’re not getting themselves into the frame of mind they need to be in. I think they’re getting carried away with too much shit as regards tactics. The most important thing in football is you keep things simple. You get yourself fit and right first and you treat football as number one and if you get them right, a lot of things will improve drastically.”

Concerning their Division 2 campaign so far, Tompkins isn’t too despondent but accepts they have to get back to winning ways quickly.

“Clare have improved a lot and Cork are lacking that bit of leadership and confidence. The Kildare game was one they could have won. There were a few lads who came in who half-impressed me — young (Kevin) O’Donovan from Clonakilty, young (Seán) White; Michael Hurley was outstanding, Ruairí Deane. It wasn’t a great game but you were playing Kildare and that’s where Cork would be pitching themselves at the moment. I think there’s not much between the two teams but you need to be winning your home games. I thought the (draw) result in Fermanagh wasn’t a bad one.”

He wants the group to target the Meath game as the potential fulcrum for the season. “They should be looking at this game as the one to turn it around. Meath are top of the table but if Cork beat them they will gain a good bit of confidence. They have to treat it like a knockout match and if they do that, it might be a corner turned.”

Meanwhile, ex-Kerry forward Darran O’Sullivan says Cork football has no excuses for how poorly they are doing. “I haven’t had a chance to read the five-year plan, but the fact that Cork have one is a positive,” the Paddy Power News GAA ambassador (

“The Rebels are at their lowest at the moment though. It’s sad. They put big bucks into a stadium that is letting them down at the moment.

“You can blame whatever you want, but they had an awful lot of underage success not too long ago. Where did all those players go?

“It’s so hard looking at it from the outside to understand how Cork have gone backwards, and so far backwards.”

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