Cork minor football selector Ollie Rue O’Sullivan is hopeful the county’s latest All-Ireland winners will show the desire required to push up through the ranks and replicate what they achieved on Sunday at U20 and senior level.
O’Sullivan was adamant Sunday’s All-Ireland final extra-time win over Galway should mark the beginning, rather than the end, of this group’s inter-county journey, urging the players not to be rest of their laurels.
The Cork selector believes there are many players in this group who possess the talent to go on and represent the county in the years ahead but added that ability alone is not sufficient.
They must have the drive to want to further their inter-county careers, he stressed.
Cork’s 3-20 to 3-14 win over Galway bridged a 19-year gap to the county’s last All-Ireland MFC title. From that all-conquering class of 2000, James Masters, Noel O’Leary, Kieran Murphy, and Kevin McMahon established themselves at senior level. The hope is many from this panel will do likewise.
“That is this management’s aspiration, not just winning a minor All-Ireland, but to develop guys so that they can go forward, represent Cork, and bring the Sam Maguire back in the near future,” O’Sullivan remarked.
“This can’t be the end, this is only the start of the journey. It is a long time since a group of young Cork lads got the experience to come into Croke Park, get into the dressing-room, and get used to the crowd on big match-days. But they have to have a desire to come back and win more. There are a number of guys with the ability, if they have the desire, to go forward and play senior for Cork.
“This final was an unbelievable battle. When you win a battle like that, it is a character-growing experience. That is what we want for Cork football.
“These guys will carry that experience with them for a long time, but hopefully, they won’t sit on it. Hopefully, a few of them playing Cork senior within a few years.”
Sunday’s six-point triumph capped a remarkable couple of months for Cork football.
After 2019 began with the U20s being without a manager for half of January and the seniors dropping to Division 3, Cork football has finished the year with two All-Ireland titles and the Ronan McCarthy’s side reaching the Super 8s for the first time.
O’Sullivan saw the seniors’ Munster final performance — McCarthy’s charges pushed Kerry much closer than anticipated — as a key fixture in the turnaround of the county’s football fortunes.
“It has been an unbelievable turnaround for Cork football. The seniors came out of the traps in the Munster final and it gave everybody great hope.
“They went at Kerry and I know they came up short, but they did the county proud. Then the U20s followed and when we went to Tullamore for our All-Ireland quarter-final, hearing they had won gave us such a huge lift while we were in the dressing-room beforehand.
“To watch the way they won the All-Ireland, the whole tide lifted together. We had driven into the lads what the U20s showed, that we weren’t going to lie down and we weren’t going to be second best. They bought into it.”
O’Sullivan added: “What we’d like to get from this minor win is more guys aspiring to play football in Croke Park, in the red of Cork, and winning All-Irelands.”
Cork’s success in locating an equalising goal in the final minute of second-half stoppages, in direct response to a 63rd minute Galway goal, stemmed from management’s message to players to always play to the finish.
Early in the summer of 2018, this Cork minor management watched on from the sideline as Kerry landed an injury-time winner less than a minute after Cork had drawn level in their Munster semi-final clash.
Cork lost the game in celebrating getting back on level terms. How that game finished was a key learning for this management.
“Galway got their goal but before they knew it, we were down the field and had the ball in the back of their net. That’s where we have learned.
“I am so delighted for Cork football and for everybody who works for the betterment of Cork football at club and underage level.”