Former Cork senior hurling manager John Meyler has acknowledged the team declined after their 2018 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Limerick.
Meyler, who stepped down following July’s quarter-final loss to Kilkenny and has since been replaced by Kieran Kingston, admitted his Cork team were at the height of their powers last year.
“Winning the Munster championship in 2018, having won it in 2017 — to repeat it again was probably the highlight in terms of winning,” he said in Abu Dhabi where he is part of the PwC All-Stars travelling party.
“Losing to Limerick in 2018 was heartbreaking, really, at the end. To go in to the last eight minutes six points up and then to lose after extra-time was hard, was difficult. We never really got it going as well again.
“2019 then, the performance against Tipperary wasn’t really good enough. Then the performance against Limerick was super. So highs and lows.”
He regrets not enjoying that Munster title win more in 2018 as manager and the season before as selector, but then the focus was on an All-Ireland.
“The provincial championship matters. It’s only in hindsight now when I look back, I probably didn’t enjoy winning in 2017 and 2018 as much as I wanted to enjoy. Having finished up this year, a lot of people would have said you were outstanding in the Munster Championship, gave great excitement and enjoyment to Cork supporters.
“While we didn’t get there at Croke Park it was a huge achievement. But you’re only judged now on winning All-Irelands. Looking at Tipperary in 2019, they lost the Munster Championship. But it’s forgotten about. Limerick winning it isalso forgotten about.
“In hindsight you can say it was great we won a Munster Championship in 2018 — it was the first year of the new format and it was absolutely brilliant. But we’re only judged on winning All-Irelands. And that’s really it.”
Meyler isn’t put off by the fact Cork are without the Liam MacCarthy Cup since 2005 and have been waiting longer for U20 (1998) and minor (2001) All-Ireland titles. The county will advance from Munster again in 2020, he has predicted.
“They’re long gaps but Cork have been competitive in the last three years. Go back to 2013 when they lost the All-Ireland to Clare after a replay. It’s just getting across the white line.
“We’ve got through Munster but haven’t got past the Croke Park line. It may take a bit of time but the management and players are there to really give it another go. Munster in 2020 is going to be extremely competitive again, but I think Cork will come through Munster again.”
What encourages Meyler is the quality of management teams put in place: “Over the summer, you’ve had a complete restructuring of the management teams. You’ve Cusack gone in there with the minor team. Pat Ryan with the U20. Kieran with the senior team. A huge bank of experience gone in to reorganise it.
“I think Cork can look forward to really competing in the new decade. I don’t think you can look at the decade anymore as a decade — you need to look at the next year because it is gone so competitive. Even in Leinster where it was two or three teams, now it’s four or five teams.”
As for the poor record of Munster champions in the All-Ireland series, he figured the early competition has had an effect.
“It’s like the Dublin footballers in Leinster. They don’t have to get ready until May or June. We’re already talking about Tipperary and Waterford in the first game in May. In the Munster hurling championship your focus has suddenly become the first weekend in May.
“You’re not even thinking about the All-Ireland series. The focus is on being competitive in May and working it back, figuring out when do we need to start ramping up training and when do we speed up our hurling — those sorts of things to get ready for the Munster championship.
“The four or five-week break between Munster and the All-Ireland semi-final needs to be brought back to about two. I’d tighten it up.”