Twelve years on, Jimmy Barry-Murphy was back in the managerial cockpit, striding out onto the Páirc Uí Rinn pitch shortly before 3pm on Saturday. JBM’s second coming was a modest affair, with only 513 supporters turning out to greet him in the dreary conditions.
His return to the Cork hot seat has generated an expectation of great championship days but the low-key Waterford Crystal Cup was where it began. The first day out was a success on the scoreboard as a Cork team, heavily populated with new faces, overwhelmed last year’s Christy Ring Cup champions Kerry and sets up a semi-final with Tipperary next week.
Not that the new manager was doing cartwheels of celebration afterwards. The level of opposition must be factored into any analysis and the vibes emanating from the Cork setup were that the management and players are still in the process of getting acquainted.
Hurling has changed since Jimmy Barry-Murphy was last Cork manager. Looking towards the Kerry goalmouth he would have seen Bernard Rochford, the Cork substitute netminder in Barry-Murphy’s 1999 All-Ireland winning panel, patrolling that area for the Kingdom.
The Cork squad has undergone a large overhaul as well with Saturday an opportunity for new players to impress. The likes of Darren Sweetnam, a former Irish U16 hockey international and Munster U19 rugby player, and Colm Spillane, still a student in St Colman’s College in Fermoy, were amongst those handed their debuts.
“That’s what we set out to do, give new lads a game,” reflected Barry-Murphy. “The result, the wides we hit and things like that doesn’t really worry us. It’s early days. For the first day out, the lads were fairly sharp. You have to keep the win in perspective. There’s a long road ahead yet.”
A few yards down the sideline from Barry-Murphy was an old comrade from club and county days. Kerry manager John Meyler, delighted to be briefed afterwards that his son David had been part of a Sunderland side that defeated Stoke 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium, knows a thing or two about second comings. His team may have been beaten but he relished this opportunity to send his players into combat against Cork.
“It was very useful for us. We’re not at Cork’s level, we never were, and it’ll take another five years of hard work and graft to try to get up to that. It’s a learning experience.”
And he welcomed the return of his opposing supremo. “Jimmy is a legend. He’s doing great work with Cork and I’m delighted he’s in charge. He’ll pull all the players together. The National League is going to be extremely hard this year since there are only five games but he’ll have the Cork lads hitting the ground running.”
The game was a competitive affair in the first half. Cork lead 1-10 to 0-7 at the break with Patrick Horgan goaling yet Shane Brick and Shane Nolan ensured they never got too far away from Kerry in the opening 35 minutes. The second half was a different tale with the clinical finishing of Eoin Murphy, Ryan Clifford and Brian Corry raising green flags for Cork while the composed striking of Luke O’Farrell, Cathal Naughton and Cian McCarthy ensured the points flowed. Kerry kept ploughing away and Aidan Boyle’s goal was a late reward for the efforts.
Early days but Barry-Murphy already has injury concerns. Darren Sweetnam gave a fine display at midfield but his introduction in the 13th minute was prompted by Patrick Cronin’s withdrawal with a leg gash. In addition Barry-Murphy confirmed that Daniel Kearney will be sidelined for six weeks after fracturing his hand last Tuesday night in a Fitzgibbon Cup game.
The old Cork guard have not disappeared either. After the game the team’s physical trainer and former Irish Olympian Dave Matthews went running laps around the pitch with Niall McCarthy, John Gardiner, Ben O’Connor and Brian Murphy. Goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack and Martin Coleman jogged to a goalmouth and began peppering balls at each other. Their manager watched on in approval.
“It’s great, I’m loving it and find it very enjoyable. The lads have been working very hard with their trainers and they’re very committed. It’s Tipperary next week and we’ll look forward to that.”
Scorers for Cork: P Horgan 1-3 (0-2f), B Corry 2-0, E Murphy 1-2, C McCarthy 0-5 (0-2 ’65), R Clifford 1-1, L O’Farrell, C Naughton 0-3 each, D Sweetnam 0-1.
Scorers for Kerry: S Brick 0-6 (0-6f), A Boyle 1-0, S Nolan, D Dineen, J Egan 0-2 each, M Boyle, A Royle 0-1 each.
CORK: A Nash (Kanturk); D Cahalane (St Finbarr’s), E Dillon (Milford), C O’Sullivan (Sarsfields); C Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), R Cashman (Kilbrittain), T Kenny (Grenagh); C Naughton (Newtownshandrum), C McCarthy (Sarsfields); B Corry (Ballymartle), P Cronin (Bishopstown), L O’Farrell (Midleton); P Horgan (Glen Rovers), E Murphy (Erin’s Own), R Clifford (Newtownshandrum). Subs: D Sweetnam (Sam Maguires) for Cronin (inj) (13), C Spillane (Castlelyons) for Cahalane (45), D O’Mahony (Carrigtwohill) for Horgan (52), P O’Brien (Killeagh) for O’Sullivan (53), K Buckley (Na Piarsaigh) for Joyce (53).
KERRY: B Rochford (Killeagh); R Horgan (St Brendan’s), T Murnane (Kilmoyley), J Godley (Kilmoyley); P Costello (Ballyduff), M Lynch (Crotta O’Neills), L Boyle (Ballyduff); D Dineen (St Brendan’s), J Griffin (Lixnaw); S Brick (Kilmoyley), D O’Connell (Abbeydorney), J Egan (St Brendan’s); S Nolan (Crotta O’Neills), A Boyle (Ballyduff), M Boyle (Ballyduff). Subs: PJ Connolly (Ballyduff) for O’Connell (45), C Harris (Ballincollig) for L Boyle (52), J Fitzgerald (Causeway) for Godley (58), J Casey (Ballyheigue) for Lynch (60), A Royle (Kilmoyley) for M Boyle (62).
Referee: Michael Wadding (Waterford).