Conor Counihan’s role as Cork’s Gaelic football project coordinator doesn’t officially commence until June 3rd but he’s already on duty.
The three-year contract commences two days after Cork’s Munster SFC semi-final against Limerick and the 2010 All-Ireland SFC winning manager has been charged with the implementation of the #2024 five-year strategic plan he helped to formulate.
Cynics might consider he designed a role for himself but that was never the case for the 59-year-old who stepped down as chief executive of St Joseph’s Foundation, Charleville in 2017 following 16 years in the role.
“I took time out after St Joseph’s and I’ve been doing other things and had other challenges. I got involved in this (the strategic plan) and I’ve been involved with the Cork U15 side as well so I have been keeping my hand in, so to speak.
“The reality then was that this opportunity came and it was a case of ‘look, let’s see what we can do with it’. There’s a bit of a passion there - you don’t ever lose it.
There are many others in the same boat and when it comes to it I hope we can get a few of them to rally to the cause.
As explained in yesterday’s press release, ensuring what was set out in the strategic plan is highest on his agenda but Counihan explains that the document is open-ended.
“It’s important to understand that those plans are fluid as such and things do change. There are key aspects we need to implement and they’re short, medium and long term issues but there are also elements that can change. There’s plenty of work there, put it that way.”
Already, Counihan has been influential in convincing former players to join him in assisting Rebel Óg underage squads and he now has the official remit to cajole and coax for the counyt cause.
“It’s about trying to engage with people on the ground and people who are interested in Cork football and who are interested in getting involved at grassroots level, promoting the game and trying to get a bit more positivity about it.
"We are trying to get young fellas back and will be trying to have a bit of pride in playing for Cork. It’s important to point out that there is a lot of good work going on as we speak at all levels and it’s been a difficult time for everyone at every level.
"Whether it’s by players or managers or whoever, the work continues and I’d like to think before the year is out that some of that work might be rewarded.”
Joe Brolly, who was often critical of Counihan’s style as Cork manager, dismissed the strategic plan as containing “waxy nonsense”, “sugary PR” and “gobbledegook”.
“Everyone is entitled to their point of view and I don’t have any problem with criticism as long as it’s constructive," said Counihan, who worked on the document with Graham Canty, Brian Cuthbert and county chairperson Tracey Kennedy.
"You’re involved in the media today and some people can sometimes the opportunity of soundbites or whatever for their own listenership or readership.
Nobody is suggesting we are getting everything right - if we did, we wouldn’t be where we are. We’ll keep an open mind on all criticism.
According to the job specification in the strategic plan, Counihan will act as a conduit between the county teams, clubs and schools. He will have a say in the appointment of team managers alongside a board representative and a former county player or manager agreed by him and the board representative.
Interestingly, the plan foresees Counihan helping to “build a synergised approach to how our teams play the game and represent our people”. Counihan will also work in tandem with the yet-to-be-appointed high performance director.
Speaking yesterday, Kennedy hailed Counihan’s appointment: “We are delighted that Conor applied successfully for this position, which is vital to the future of Cork football. Conor brings with him a huge amount of experience in all aspects of Cork football, along with a passion and drive that is immeasurable, and on behalf of the County Board, I would like to welcome him to our team and wish him every success in this new role."