Cork minor manager Bobbie O’Dwyer knows how quickly Cork football’s restorative summer has trickled all the way down to the next generation.
A recent conversation with Games Development Administrator for West Cork and West Muskerry James McCarthy illustrated the impact the county’s run through various grades has made on willing young minds.
“I was talking to James and he was telling me about a summer camp he was overseeing where all the eight, nine and 10-year old kids present wanted to be Damien Gore, Daniel O’Connell and Mark Cronin. They were their heroes, along with the other U20s, and it is terrific to see that. There is nothing like a bit of success and a bit of confidence, it is great for the county.”
The minors’ run to today’s All-Ireland semi-final, the first time in nine years a Cork team has reached this stage of the championship, has added significantly to what has been a timely summer of progress for Cork football.
O’Dwyer said his players have also been inspired and taken their lead from the county’s U20 and senior teams.
“We were just getting ready to go out onto the pitch at Tullamore for our All-Ireland quarter-final when word came in the Cork U20s had come back from seven down to win their All-Ireland semi-final by two points.
“To look around the room and to see the joy in the faces of the players, it gave them such a lift. The bit of confidence gives them a bit of momentum.
We still have to go out and do it on the field but it is great to see the seniors doing so well and the U20s winning the final the way they did, it is just a good place for Cork football to be in.
“Training alongside the U20s at Cork IT and, on occasion, training at Páirc Uí Chaoimh while the seniors are down there, it has been such a fantastic time for our lads. “It gives something for our lads to dream about and have a desire to get onto the next level. They are all aspiring to push on when finished at minor.”
He added: “From time spent with the players, it is great for them to be playing football until the end of August. It is a wonderful opportunity. Of course, they will have a tough game on Saturday.”
The changed format of the Munster MFC played a significant role in enabling Cork to emerge from the province and enjoy a campaign deep into the summer.
O’Dwyer knows his players have benefited immensely from the extra few months together, a sharp contrast to the Cork minor classes of 2017 and 2018, both of whom were done for the year by May 10.
These boys are only 15, 16, and 17 years of age, they just soak up all the information you give to them so the more often we can work with them on the field and the more often they see it in a competitive type of championship environment, the better players they become.
“They are learning skillsets they won’t have been exposed to before so it is a huge education for these lads.”