All-Ireland minor winning manager Bobbie O’Dwyer had laid much of the credit for the turnaround in Cork’s football fortunes at the doorstep of Conor Counihan.
The 2010 All-Ireland winning senior boss was appointed project coordinator for Gaelic football in the county earlier this year, his main remit being to implement Cork football’s five-year plan.
“Conor has pulled an awful lot of strands together within the GAA family down in Cork,” O’Dwyer began.
“It’s absolutely no coincidence that the results are starting to go our way because from the point of view of being a manager of a county team, having Conor there, outside of the benefit of his knowledge, his ability to link the parts within the Cork GAA family that need to be linked and being able to remove obstacles that may or may not be there, it has been a huge benefit to the county.”
Cork needed the two All-Irelands they have finished the season with, according to O’Dwyer, who sees it as so important the young kids of Cork have ample “heroes” to look up to.
“It’s a superb end to the year for us, two All-Ireland wins going back to Leeside is fantastic. That may not have been what you thought at the start of the year.
I think I made the point to a few of ye earlier on about confidence and momentum. We definitely got the benefit of the U20s going very, very well. That lifted our spirits and we saw that we had an opportunity too.
“We’ve been at a few camps over the last few weeks. Kids of 8, 9, and 10 now have heroes to look up too. They now have a Conor Corbett or a Jack Lawton or a Ryan O’Donovan or a Michael O’Neill to look up to. Every county needs that, that bit of success.”
The Cork manager praised his players for staying the course given there were many moments which indicated it would not be their day.
“A very, very satisfying result. My heart is well gone now at this stage. An absolutely outstanding comeback by our guys because Galway frustrated us for long times with their defensive setup.
“They have a very, very good defensive setup and we weren’t patient enough with working the ball into where we needed to get it. It took us a while to break that down but once we did break it down we have scorers and goalscorers in the inside line and it was a case of us getting the ball in quickly and accurately enough. That’s how it played out in the end.”
Galway manager Dónal Ó Fátharta, meanwhile, said his players were “numb” with devastation.
The way it happened, we’re devastated. The boys are in there and they are numb. Can’t move, a lot of them. They can’t believe it. It was almost there for them. I spoke with them on the pitch and it is going to be a difficult one for them to take.
“We spoke to them about that and for them to mind each other. Hopefully, their family and friends will rally around them. They are only 16 or 17-year-old guys. It is tough on me and I’m a lot older. It is devastating but that is sport.
“It takes a super team to win an All-Ireland. Kerry have been doing it the last while, but that is a very fine Cork team. We’re good too, don’t get me wrong, but we just didn’t get over the line today. We’re devastated but we’ll get on with it.”
Ó Fátharta believed his side was “probably over the line” when sub Niall Cunningham found the net to put them three up three minutes into second-half stoppages but added it was clearly written “in the stars” that Cork would win out such was the drama that followed Galway’s second goal.
“I had a feeling that, probably, we were over the line, maybe. One quick kick-out, it went over the top and we were a little bit exposed. It was in the stars for Cork today, it must have been because we were probably very close there. It is hard on them now, but they’ll need to move on and hopefully take the positives from it.”
When asked if his players were deflated at the end of normal time, the manager replied, “not really”.
“Now, physically, they obviously must have been. We asked a couple of guys if they were okay and they said they were fine. There were no signs. But Cork keep coming. They are physically very strong. Our guys tackling wouldn’t be as big as them.
“That does have to take its toll after a while. They got the goal at the start of extra-time. What happened at the end of normal time had an effect on them.”