On a weekend at Croke Park where people were eager to see if Cork’s players in both codes would sink or swim, two men shone like beacons for their respective causes, writes Peter McNamara.
Patrick Horgan, rightly, has been praised from the rooftops, not only on Leeside, but across the country for his mesmeric display against Kilkenny.
The execution of his second goal, in particular, was sublime.
The hope is, despite the fact Cork exited stage left at the All-Ireland SHC quarter-final juncture, that Horgan will still get an All-Star.
Scant consolation for the northsider but it would be deserved all the same.
Too often, of course, the individual awards at the end of a given season are based, primarily, on what happens in the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.
However, it would be a complete joke if Horgan is ultimately overlooked as he has probably had his best season in a Cork shirt.
There has been plenty of discussions on social media and in bars across the city and county regarding John Meyler’s position as manager since the loss to the Cats.
Some people say he should stay in the role and others believe he should go.
I always think it is extremely unfair for commentators or supporters, no matter how frustrated they are, to be sticking the knife in, wanting managers out at the drop of a hat.
It’s important to let the dust settle and Meyler, along with his management team, deserve their time to reflect before even considering what happens next.
There is so much involved in managing a senior inter-county team nowadays that rushing to any decisions would be unnecessary.
Of course, Cork’s management team made mistakes and people’s frustrations are understandable, at the same time.
For example, I would not have started Conor Lehane ahead of somebody like Aidan Walsh when more grafters were required at Croke Park last Sunday.
Furthermore, it would have been a positive to see the likes of Declan Dalton get more game-time this summer.
Yet, those of us on the outside are not privy to the goings-on inside of a camp and so there might well have been legitimate reasons for the decisions the management made pre-game and during the match itself.
So did the management make mistakes? Absolutely, every management does.
However, should they shoulder all the blame for crashing out last Sunday? Absolutely not.
A high percentage of the players involved against Kilkenny have had many opportunities to prove themselves at headquarters and unfortunately have fallen short.
Anthony Daly questioned their “manliness”. Whether it was fair or not to go that far is up for debate.
Nevertheless, it’s not like anybody in this part of the world can defend their lack of grit, either.
At the beginning of this year, I put Cork and Tipp forward as the most likely All-Ireland champions. And had the Rebels gotten over Kilkenny I remain convinced they would have turned Limerick over in the last four, as Cork have proven themselves to be a thorn in the side of John Kiely’s outfit.
Yet, as soon as Wexford defeated Kilkenny in the Leinster final, people on Leeside became anxious about what a clash with Brian Cody’s charges would bring in the All-Ireland quarter-final. And the reason for that is because, deep down, people here appreciate that Cork are not keen on tackling Kilkenny.
The Cats bring fire and brimstone to the party and do so like no other county.
Cork, though, prefer to play teams that are not in their faces as much as Kilkenny will be.
But what does that say about this group, one a lot of us had such high hopes for in this championship campaign?
Regardless of whether it is Meyler or somebody else that guides Cork into 2020, the players themselves, who have all the talent in the world, need to become more mentally durable.
If Meyler does decide to step aside, the Cork County Board should appoint Kieran Kingston again to take the Rebels forward.
Kingston, along with those who worked with him on the management team previously, could propel the Leesiders as the county seeks to end the drought at the highest level.
The other Leesider to enhance his reputation at the weekend was Clonakilty’s Séan White.
The Cork centre-forward was magnificent for Ronan McCarthy’s unit at Croke Park on Saturday night.
On an evening when Cork needed leaders against Dublin, White relished the responsibility of steering the Rebels’ attack.
He was direct and purposeful and cared little for Dublin’s reputation. More of the same from White in the remaining Super-8 matches and in future seasons and he could become a cult figure with supporters.
Football folk in Cork have been crying out for men like White since the days of Anthony Lynch, Graham Canty, Pearse O’Neill, and Donncha O’Connor.
Obviously, he has a long way to go to be held in such exalted regard. However, White at least proved he fancies it against the best of the best and that bodes extremely well for Cork.
If others that are beginning to establish themselves on the team can follow White’s lead, Cork football will regain its reputation sooner rather than later.
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