Ronan McCarthy believes the Cork senior football championship could have been played over a shorter period but aims to make the best of the short time he has with his players.
As a result of last night’s competitions control committee’s (CCC) decision, four football finals are now due to take place on the weekend of October 11, the weekend before they play the first of their two outstanding Allianz League Division 3 games. After facing Louth at home, they travel to Down needing one point from those two games to gain promotion.
McCarthy will then have two weeks to prepare his players for the do-or-die Munster semi-final against Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Sunday, November 8.
Speaking before the CCC’s decision, he said: “What you do in this scenario is just accept it and try and make the best of it. You do look at other counties that are finished and you would think they are at a distinct advantage but we have to look at the hand we’ve been dealt.
“In an ideal scenario, you’d like a slightly narrower timeframe for the club championship and it could have been but you just deal with it. As we get players back, the momentum will build and the question then is what clubs get to the finals because the players from those clubs will need a week to 10 days to reintegrate to training and then we have the Division 3 game against Louth the following week so it’s incredibly tight. We’ll make the best of it.”
Upon return to training at the start of last week, McCarthy had seven players available to him. “It’s hard to believe it’s the bones of six months since we were last together. We had a very small number, seven players who were available to train. We hope to have more bodies back this week.
“Our numbers will build but the reality is depending on who gets to the finals it could be October 11 before we have anything close to a full panel. When people hear ‘oh, inter-county panels are back training’ they think everyone is back and in some counties they are but in our case they aren’t.”
McCarthy agrees the carrot of going up to Division 2 upon Cork’s return to competitive action will provide an added impetus. “From the point of view of a run-in to the Kerry game, I think it’s ideal for ourselves. Some counties are safe and don’t have a lot riding on the matches but we still have two competitive games, which is better than training, and in our case we only need a point from our remaining two matches to guarantee our promotion.
"That will all come around very quickly and it will again next year with the Championship running so late.
“It’s a great opportunity to cement our place in Division 2 and prepare ourselves for what is going to be a very competitive Division 2 next season once we do the business in the games. It’s great for us that we have an opportunity to finish off a league campaign that at one point we thought we wouldn’t be able to. It’s all very welcome but all being done in a very rushed and very narrow window.”
Like his hurling equivalent Kieran Kingston, McCarthy intends updating his 2020 panel with players based on their performances in the club championships to date.
“First of all, the panel of players there at the moment would know there’s no guarantee to being included for this window shall we call it. Certainly, there were a number of players that played quite well in the club championships and we would be looking to bring them in over the next couple of weeks.
"Again, you’re dependent on clubs being out of the championships.
“There were some players who were with us for pre-season during the year, didn’t make the league panel and we’ll certainly bring them in.
"If they’re doing well we wouldn’t be slow to include them. With this short window, you’d also be looking at the pre-season for the new year and any time you bring in young players and give them a taste of what an elite county set-up is about with Cian O’Neill (coach) and Kevin Smith (strength and conditioning) looking after the team it helps them the next time they’re brought back in.”
McCarthy isn’t sold on the idea of the split season like Kingston.
“I’m not sure about it. I’d have to see it working and see more concrete plans. I think the theory and the principle sounds great and it appears to be very clean but the workings of it I have to see. The nuts and bolts will have to be there before I’d be throwing my weight behind it.”