Munster Rugby’s loss is Cork GAA’s gain as Aidan O’Connell joins the latter organisation as their first ever high-performance manager.
Following a “rigorous interview process”, O’Connell was yesterday appointed to the role, bringing to an end both his role as Munster Rugby’s senior strength and conditioning coach and a 17-year involvement with the province.
O’Connell worked with the Cork senior footballers from 2008 to 2012, an era during which Conor Counihan masterminded Sam Maguire glory.
County board chairperson Tracey Kennedy believes O’Connell’s previous involvement with Cork GAA will enable him “to hit the ground running”.
“Somebody else might have had to spend a month or six weeks acclimatising or learning about us whereas Aidan should have an advantage from the point of view he was involved before. He knows the system, he knows Cork GAA, and that should mean he’ll hit the ground running from day one of his contract. We would see that as a help,” she said.
The new high-performance manager will partner with CEO Kevin O’Donovan, Cork GAA staff, and team managers in both hurling and football to develop and strengthen strategies relating to player development.
Cork supporters’ body Cairde Chorcaí will cover half of O’Connell’s wage.
“This is new territory as this is our first time having a high-performance manager. The role will evolve and Aidan will play a role in that,” Kennedy continued.
The position will be a vital one in ensuring that we maximise the achievement of our inter-county teams in an increasingly demanding and competitive environment.
The Ballyclough native is the holder of a Bachelor of Science in Sports and Exercise Science (BSc) from the University of Limerick and a Master of Science in Coaching Studies (MSc) from the University of Edinburgh.
Overseeing the appointment process was CEO Kevin O’Donovan, recently resigned Kildare manager Cian O’Neill, former Cork bosses Brian Cuthbert and Kieran Kingston, and Doug Howlett, the former Munster rugby player who worked with the Cork hurlers this year.
Kennedy was adamant there was no conflict of interest with Kingston being involved given he has been heavily linked to the vacant senior hurling post.
“I would see absolutely no conflict. Kieran was brought into the high-performance manager appointment process when John Meyler was still manager of the Cork team.
This process has been ongoing for a number of months. Kieran was involved in that process before there was ever a managerial vacancy.
With the appointment of a high-performance manager complete, attention will now be exclusively focused on the various Cork management positions which require filling. Officials have already made clear the high-performance manager will not have a direct say in who succeeds Meyler as senior hurling boss.
A five-person group to oversee the appointment process has been formally established.
Kennedy, among other board members, has repeatedly stressed the appointment process to find a new senior manager will be slow and laborious.
We feel that whoever is the next Cork senior hurling manager should be the result of an extensive process, during which anyone who should be considered for the role is considered. We are not going to rush the process.
The position of Cork minor hurling manager is also on the table following the conclusion of John Considine’s term.
Two-time Fitzgibbon Cup-winning manager Jamie Wall, who coached the Cork U16 hurlers this year, is the frontrunner for the job.
The Cork senior footballers, meanwhile, are on the hunt for a new coach following Eddie Kirwan’s decision to opt out for family reasons.
Former Nemo Rangers boss Kirwan joined the Cork football set-up at the end of last year, but will not be continuing into 2020. There has been a degree of turnover in Ronan McCarthy’s backroom team over the past 12 months, with selector Ciaran O’Sullivan departing the scene at the beginning of this year.
McCarthy’s tenure is not up for review as he was given a three-year term when appointed in August of 2017. The new hurling manager will not be afforded such and will instead receive a two-year term.