Having fallen at the fourth round qualifier for the past three years, the current Cork football model, according to Slocum, clearly isn’t working. A different approach is required and Slocum has called on the board to reach out to the likes of Billy Morgan, Larry Tompkins and Graham Canty to thrash out a system to return Cork as realistic Sam Maguire contenders.
Issues surrounding training facilities and the Cork football budget also need to be ironed out, added Slocum, before the board executive conducts a single interview to fill the vacant managerial position.
“If the county board were to go away and appoint somebody in the morning, that would be the wrong way of doing it,” said Slocum, wing-back on the 1989 and ‘90 All-Ireland winning teams.
“Before they go looking for a new manager, they need to get in contact with people who have been involved at inter-county level and who know what other successful counties are doing, the likes of Billy Morgan, Larry Tompkins, Conor Counihan, Graham Canty and Jimmy Barry Murphy, for example, get them around a table and talk out what needs to be done and what needs to be put in place to improve Cork football. If it takes a week or a month, so what. Just do it.
“We’re obviously doing something different to what Kerry, Tyrone and Dublin are doing. I don’t want to have a cut off anybody working with the development squads and underage teams in the county, but we’re obviously doing something wrong in terms of the way we are developing players from underage up.”
Coaching, he stresses, is far from the county’s sole problem, though. Background problems that hindered the tenures of Brian Cuthbert and Peadar Healy cannot persist when the new administration is ushered in.
“I don’t think Brian Cuthbert or Peadar Healy had a chance, to be honest about it. These guys went in and they got the height of abuse for doing their best. I think anybody would be half-mad to take the job at present without knowing what’s there.
“I heard Peadar Healy talking about Ruairi Deane having to travel from West Cork to Fermoy for training. That’s absolutely insane. Let’s try to knock together the most experienced heads in Cork football and come up with the answers.”
Slocum continued: “The development of Páirc Uí Chaoimh was a huge thing that was going on for the last couple of years. Reading between the lines, there was a problem with funding. I’m out of the loop, but that is the sense you got from reading newspapers and what not. What the likes of Peadar and Brian would have had at their disposal was probably not at the level at what other counties would have.
“Whoever gets the job has to be coming into a situation where he is comfortable that things will be done right, that the players are comfortable, things are being done right and there is every chance of getting Cork back on the road. I don’t care if it takes three or four months so long as the right person is got and the systems are in place. Give the person everything he needs to be successful.”
Does he believe there is an appetite among top-brass to do whatever is necessary to arrest the decline of recent years?
“I obviously can’t answer that, but I can’t understand why there wouldn’t be a real genuine desire at county board level for Cork football to be doing well. If there are people involved in Cork GAA who don’t want the best for Cork football, that’s a bad state of affairs.”
If the proper foundations are laid, Slocum saw enough potential during the extra-time defeat to Mayo last Saturday to suggest that Cork isn’t that far removed from football’s summit.
“It was only last year where we were listening to people say how Cork hurling was in such an awful state. Now, all of a sudden, we are talking about winning an All-Ireland. The players are there. It is just about getting systems right and getting training facilities right.
“When you’ve played the game, you don’t want to see a situation where Cork aren’t competitive. There are a lot of good young Cork footballers. I am not saying we’ll be All-Ireland contenders next year, but certainly, there is enough talent to be competitive and maybe, in three or four years time, that we’ll be back to the 2010 thing. It is definitely going to be a project.”
Niall Cahalane, speaking on Newstalk’s Off The Ball last night, shared his views on why Cork football has regressed.
“I think that the demise of football in Cork almost went with the demise of the Catholic Church,” said Cahalane.
“You can only do so much in the clubs. They’re only foot soldiers there. When you go into the secondary school in September, you’re in there until May, early June or whatever and I think we never filled that void in an awful lot of towns and in the north and south side of the city.
“We’re not winning Corn Uí Mhuirís and haven’t been for a number of years and for a long, long time, Cork were very dominant at schools level. Until we replace that — and I think the Community Schools we have now haven’t been as active and as successful as the Christian Brothers and their teachers were at that time.”