Former Cork captain Shane O’Neill believes the proposed minor hurling management team of Dónal Óg Cusack, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, and Tom Kelly can only inspire the players in 2020.
O’Neill was delighted to hear his former team-mates had agreed to put their names forward for ratification at this evening’s board meeting and sent texts of congratulations to them on hearing the news.
With Cusack leading the set-up as the manager, O’Neill expects that next year’s group will be seriously motivated.
“You look at the minor and U20 appointments and they’re not necessarily young voices, but from a young player’s perspective, if you were 16 or 17 and you heard Dónal Óg, Seán Óg and Tom Kenny were involved, that’s going to bring an extra 10 or 20% out of you.
“They have won it all with Cork — the All-Irelands, the Munster titles and the All Stars — and from that angle it is very positive. All of them have been involved in club coaching the last few years too and Seán Óg and TK have been in with the UCC Freshers so they’re used to managing players at that elite kind of level.”
After all that happened during the strikes, O’Neill reckons Cusack doubted the day would come when he would be appointed to take over a Cork team: “If you ask himself whether he thought he’d get an opportunity like this, he might say he didn’t think it was possible. But having played alongside him for five or six years, he was a massive role model for all that he did with Cork and the massive effort he put in. Tom and Seán Óg are no different.
“I heard a week ago that Kevin O’Donovan was waiting for most of the management teams to be confirmed. He wanted to wait until there was some structure before announcing them and, to be honest with you, the feedback I’ve been receiving has been very positive.”
On the appointment of Pat Ryan as U20 manager, O’Neill only sees pluses: “Whenever you came up against him in Sars they were always easy on the eye, playing a fine brand of hurling and he always got the best out of players. He has a great hurling brain and has good ideas on the pitch.
“There have been good U20 teams there and hopefully this management team can find the one or two things they have been missing to get them over the line.”
Meanwhile, Bride Rovers’ John Arnold also supports the pending appointment of Cusack as minor hurling manager.
Arnold and Cusack would have been on opposing sides during the strikes, with each holding vehement positions, but the former has backed the three-time All-Ireland winner as he prepares to succeed John Considine.
“We’d often have crossed swords, maybe not face-to-face, but in words and theologically, you could say. I would welcome his appointment, I’m not saying: ‘let bygones be bygones’, but he is a hurling man with a hurling brain and with the people he is bringing in with him, I can’t see him being anything but a positive influence.
“The appointment is being made for the good of Cork hurling and that’s not saying: ‘oh, I was wrong with what I said about him.’
“We had disagreements, but that’s the great thing about the GAA. I would welcome all the appointments, his in particular.
“There’s no point in saying we didn’t see eye-to-eye during the strikes, but it’s a good appointment for Cork minor hurling.”
Across the board, there are influences from the Donal O’Grady/John Allen era in the management teams, and Arnold endorses them.
“That can only be positive too, because they were the last team that brought the last All-Ireland success to Cork.
“They are relatively young people and a lot of them are still playing hurling in their own clubs. It’s not as if they’re being dusted down and told to get interested in hurling again.
“They have their eyes and ears open and they are very au fait with the Cork hurling scene and what’s required in the modern set-up.
“That team were damn close to winning the three-in-a-row and their appointments don’t automatically mean we’re going to go back to a short-passing style of game because all those fellas are open to any innovation in hurling and they’ll see what they have available and come up with strategies to suit.”