Declan Browne, Óisín McConville and Colin Corkery have each expressed strong opinions on Cork’s senior footballers and the avenues they need to take to return to the upper echelons of the code, writes Peter McNamara.
Each of those three characters had their say on Cork’s performance last Saturday at Croke Park against Donegal, the seasonal performance overall of Peadar Healy’s side and the immediate future for Leeside football at the highest level.
Browne, speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast yesterday, said there are “fundamental problems” with Cork football.
“There seems to be something fundamentally wrong down there in Cork at the moment,” Browne said. “Cork were poor in stages against Tipp but I thought they would have a great chance of beating Donegal.
“There’s definitely something fundamentally amiss with Cork.
“It’s like anything else, once the wheels come off it’s so hard to get back on track no matter how good you feel.
“When the tide is against you, you need your big lads to step up as well.
“Cork’s shooting though was very wayward. They were taking on shots 50 or 60 yards from goal.
“Aidan Walsh, when he came on, kicked a great score and I thought he might change the game but he showed his lack of football.
“The thing is, we learned more from the Cork game than Cork did.
“They were back to their own silly mistakes because when the game was in the melting pot they didn’t drive on as they should have.
“They have a lot of soul-searching to do but Cork being Cork they’ll always be there and they’ll be back.”
The contrast between Tipperary’s utilisation of their U21 progress and how Cork seem to be potentially squandering their talent from the successes at the same grade of the last few years will be a concern by the banks of the Lee.
Browne illustrated how Cork’s more experienced players should be the ones that drive the Rebels back into silverware contention, though.
“Everything has to be going in the same direction from County Board level down to the underage groups before success can follow.
“To be fair though, I think the dual element actually takes the pressure off Tipp.
“In Cork there is expectation every year so a lot of the big players need to stand up and say ‘Right, we need to get this back on track’ and they won’t be too far away.
“The worrying thing for Cork is Tipp and Kerry are now in the Munster semi-finals next year, which obviously is a long way away yet. But Cork might find themselves on the end of these types of results for a few years yet,” he stated.
Browne’s thoughts on Cork are emphatic and hard to argue against, however.
It’s interesting too Corkery and McConville shared the view Cork need a defined strategy in order to perform as close to their optimum as possible.
“I remember saying a few years back that Cork had to strategise on which way they wanted to play and that still holds true. It has to be a long-term situation,” Corkery said in the Irish Examiner today.
“The players are there, it’s just a matter of agreeing on which way we want to play and develop a competitiveness so if we’re not winning games to reach All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in the current season then we’re working on things for the following one.
“They have to bed down a strategy and a starting team. Management have to say, ‘This is the way things are going to be.’ Because if they don’t, we have no future.”
McConville had said on Monday the Leesiders need to be more direct as the pace is there for Cork to run from deep as well as having the option of delivering the ball in long given they have players such as Colm O’Neill and Peter Kelleher on the edge of the square.
Yet, those players were under-utilised at headquarters last Saturday which is a pity.
There wasn’t too much wrong, obviously, with Cork’s display.
After all, they lost by a kick of a ball and were extremely competitive. Yet, Browne’s comment on ‘wayward shooting’ is valid – there were 29 wides in that particular match with Healy’s charges guilty of 16 of those.
McConville’s suggestion Cork need an outside manager is a theory this column has mentioned in the past too.
The scary element from a Cork perspective is McConville was banging the same drum in a feature interview I conducted with him two-and-a-half years ago for the Evening Echo.
I concur entirely with each of their ideas and beliefs, too, for the record, especially as McConville’s and Corkery’s are along similar lines.
Cork need a managerial leader blessed with tactical nous.
Healy deserves a second year at the helm, obviously.
However, if progress is not forthcoming a new boss will be in charge for the 2018 campaign you would imagine.
The problem is will we still be in the same place then as we are now searching for answers to questions that seem to baffle those in power on Leeside?
Would the Cork County Board ever appoint an outside manager? Probably not.
Yet, if they really are as forward-thinking as they perceive themselves to be then they should bite the bullet and do exactly that as it’s not as if the county is blessed with managerial quality currently.
And no, we do not believe John Cleary is the answer either.
Unfortunately, it seems nobody on Leeside can even decide on what Cork’s best starting 15 is; never mind put together a cohesive tactical plan that will yield satisfactory results.
Cork need a strong personality with in-depth tactical appreciation of the code in its current guise to steer the team.
At present, that’s lacking and therefore Cork’s primary problem.