Cunningham defends JBM’s ‘fantastic record’

Three days on and the soul-searching continues.

Cunningham defends JBM’s ‘fantastic record’

County board officials, former players, pundits and journalists have all had their say since Cork’s 10-point All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Tipperary — as have supporters.

The net has been cast far and wide in the quest for answers.

Questions have been in far greater supply and Ger Cunningham found himself facing most of them yesterday when the former Cork goalkeeper attended an U21 hurling press conference in his role as Bord GáisEnergy sports ambassador.

Cunningham has been doing the gig for a few years now. He knew the drill. It started with a gag about sticking to matters U21, but the conversation wound its way inevitably back towards Sunday and to the deeper meaning behind the loss and the nature of it.

The entrails of the game, he preferred to swerve.

It’s only nine months since he stepped down as a senior selector after two years with Jimmy Barry Murphy and he felt it inappropriate to comment on former colleagues so soon after his own involvement and such a defeat.

“Raw,” was all he would say.

The aftermath has raised as many issues, of course, with Dónal Óg Cusack’s remarks about underage droughts, the paucity of development officers and the proposed ‘Centre of Excellence’ at the soon-to- be redeveloped Pairc Ui Chaoimh all in the firing line.

“It’s obviously been a topic in Cork for a number of years once they started looking at doing up the stadium,” Cunningham said. “Anyone that goes to matches in Cork realises that it needs a facelift, it needs to be done over.

“You go to matches in the Páirc and the seating is very uncomfortable so it needs to be done. It’s 40 years old, it needs to be done up. Some people are questioning whether it needs that sort of revamp and spending all that money. €70 million is a lot of money.”

Cusack questioned the need to spend so much when Cork’s underage performances have been so worrying and Cunningham believes the downturn in fortunes among the city’s traditional hurling powers is one of the key concerns.

“It probably goes back to the schools and the colleges. The point was made that we’re not competing at colleges levels anymore. That’s where guys from 14 up to 19 got the opportunity and the exposure playing against guys of similar ages in other counties and other colleges.

“The demise of Farna (St Finbarr’s, Farranferris), North Mon, Sully’s Quay (Coláiste Iognaid Ris), Colman’s (St Colman’s, Fermoy) — the colleges have been decimated.”

Other topics were touched on: the battle among sports for hearts and minds; the dip in standard at club level which Cunningham believes is a result of the move away from a knockout format and the need to play catch-up with their development squads.

Structures beyond the county boundary were analysed, too, most notably the championship system that saw Cork lay idle for five weeks after claiming the Munster title while Tipperary sharpened their senses through the back door.

Yet, whatever about all that, Cunningham clearly believes that the right man is in the right place at this time when it comes to the senior team, regardless of the fact that JBM’s three-year term is now officially up.

“Jimmy’s record in the last three years since he’s taken over — league finals, Munster finals, All-Ireland finals — we hadn’t been competing in that situation before he took over. His record has been fantastic since he took over.”

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