It was a question that had to be asked even if the likelihood was Ronan McCarthy was going to kick for touch — what about his future? The timing of the query didn’t appear to the Cork manager’s liking soon after such a trouncing but year four of five has now been completed.
Cork signalled their intention to gain promotion and yet found themselves having to stave off relegation. For all the unbridled joy of beating Kerry in last year’s Munster semi-final, Cork failed to push on and a combination of inexperience and possibly hubris saw them lose a provincial final to Tipperary.
Where is the progress? The under-age system has rarely been as promising but McCarthy hasn’t had much of a chance to cultivate it at senior level. He couldn’t have had worse luck with the injuries that befell his group this year. At one stage, the number unavailable jumped into the high teens.
Following a miserable start to the year when he was suspended for the Youghal beach training session in January, there has been little cheer for McCarthy.
Maybe he is due the opportunity to guide Cork into a full season in 2022 when these last two have been so truncated but will he want to? Does he want to leave on such a low or will he be afforded the chance of redemption?
If the Connacht final at Croke Park was Pádraic Joyce’s last stand as Galway manager, he will rue the impact of the pandemic on his ill-fated reign. Joyce’s appointment ahead of the 2020 season was a popular one and he led Galway to four wins in his first five league games.
Then the pandemic struck and nothing has been the same since for Galway and their beleaguered manager.
When action resumed after the first lockdown last year, Galway were hammered by Mayo. Then they lost to Dublin.
Then they lost to Mayo again. In all, they’ve lost seven of their nine games during the pandemic, winning just two, both of which were against Roscommon.
Worse still is the manner of many of those defeats. There were 15- and 22-point losses to Mayo and Kerry in the league.
There was this season’s relegation play-off against Monaghan when Galway held a five-point lead with 68 minutes played only to somehow lose after extra-time.
In their latest meeting with Mayo, they winced as a five-point half-time lead morphed into a six-point loss, an 11-point swing on the scoreboard overall. Joyce said the situation now is that his two-year term has been completed and he has to see if he wants to stay on, or if he’s wanted.
For the second game running at Croke Park, Mayo players were involved in a tunnel dust-up and could yet face repercussions if the GAA opts to launch an investigation.
RTÉ TV footage captured a number of Mayo and Galway players trading shoves as the two teams walked down the tunnel at half-time in the Connacht final. Galway manager Padraic Joyce was close to the incident and helped to calm his players before directing them to their dressing-room. No action was taken by referee Conor Lane upon the resumption of play and neither manager made an issue of the situation afterwards.
Joyce didn’t reference the incident while Mayo manager James Horan laughed off the episode. “I haven’t a clue what happened, I was in moving pieces on a (tactics) board by myself,” said Horan. “I heard, I heard roaring and shouting so I stayed with my board, to be honest.”
Mayo and Dublin players previously clashed in the tunnel at half-time of last December’s All-Ireland football final. Galway are out of the Championship though any suspension which may arise from an investigation into the latest melee could prove costly for Mayo with their August 14/15 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin or Kildare in mind.
Galway’s hurling championship exit on Saturday had an end of an era feel about it.
Now, we’re certainly not predicting or demanding a clearout of the older and more experienced players from the Galway team that contested three All-Ireland finals between 2015-18, as well as the 2012 decider of nine years ago, but the evidence provided during the defeats to Dublin and the Déise points towards the absolute requirement for a rebuilding job.
And going on how Galway were set up at Thurles, one has to ask if Shane O’Neill is the man to oversee that rebuilding job.
As outlined elsewhere on these pages, there were a number of head-scratching tactical decisions by the Galway management at Semple Stadium and, indeed, earlier in the season, chief among them being the relocation of Daithí Burke from full to centre-back, the Turloughmore man having won a bag of All-Stars in the number three position.
Also perplexing was the relocation of another former All-Star winner, Conor Whelan, from corner to centre-forward. Whelan is a player who thrives on the flanks and in the corner, receiving angled and down-the-line deliveries, and using his strength to then take on and beat his man. Moving him into a central position for a knockout fixture simply made no sense.
A lack of “rhythm” was one reason put forward by O’Neill for Galway’s deplorable first-half showing on Saturday.
There were plenty other reasons too and not all of them had to do with Waterford brilliance.