New Cork senior hurling manager Pat Ryan says prospective players will be judged “on their ability, not on their age or how many seasons they’ve played”.
The new boss, ratified by the Cork County Board on Tuesday evening, has a three-year term but stressed that he will be looking at what players “can offer Cork hurling right now” rather than two or three seasons down the line.
When asked about older members of the current panel, Ryan said: “I’d put it this way. I’ve been given a three-year term, and I’m delighted to have gotten that vote of confidence from the Board, but I’m also a realist.
“My job is to get the Cork senior hurling team playing to the best of their ability - immediately. And I need the best players available to do that.
“In that sense I’m not planning for 2025. God knows what will happen that season, or in 2024. My immediate focus will be 2023. I’m delighted to have the three years, absolutely, but I’m very much centred on getting the best out of the players, putting the best, most cohesive backroom team together, getting the players challenging for Liam MacCarthy and performing to the best of their ability consistently, and doing that quickly.
“I can’t wait around for 2025 to do that. In that sense I won’t be looking at fellas’ ages, or how many times they’ve played for Cork already: I’ll be looking at what those players can do for Cork hurling right now.
“Any of the lads who are on the Cork senior hurling panel now that we think are good enough, they’ll be judged on their ability, not on their age or how many seasons they’ve played. That’s the way we’ll be approaching it.”
The Sarsfields clubman will be keeping a close eye on the upcoming club championships on Leeside.
“Without a doubt,” said Ryan. “We’re looking for players. We have a brilliant system at the moment in Cork with the minors and U20s, the way players are coming through to those teams from the development squads.
“But you can’t beat the enthusiasm that a new player brings in either, and by a new player I mean someone who may not have been there before. And we will be looking for those fellas as well, of course.
“I’d be a big believer in ‘if you can’t do it for your club on the big day, then how will you do it for Cork on a Munster final or All-Ireland final day in Thurles or Croke Park?’
“That’s one thing I’d stress - there’s a blank slate there for everybody and any player who can compete. And that means players of every age, and players from everywhere.
“I won’t be saying ‘to play for Cork a fella has to play this way or that way’ - we want to give fellas an opportunity and if someone puts their hand up playing club championship, we’ll look at them.”
Ryan paid tribute to outgoing manager Kieran Kingston, adding that it was “now or never” for his own crack at the job: “To a certain extent it was a case of “if you’re not going to do it now, when are you going to do it?” “I’m 45, turning 46, so I think I’m in a good spot - my kids are getting old enough as well, so I just felt it was the right time for me to do it.
“I think Kieran has left the whole setup in a very good place as well, I think there’s plenty of talent there and it’s a great opportunity.
“Would it have been a dream of mine all my life, to manage Cork? Being absolutely honest it wasn’t something I would have thought about - maybe playing for Sars in a county final and being involved with Cork in an All Ireland would have been more of a focus.
“But being involved with people who are trying to achieve something, who are trying to improve themselves, that’s very rewarding. And being involved with younger people keeps you young and enthusiastic yourself.
“When you’re approached with something like this it can be easy to just consider the negative things, but since I decided to let my name go forward it’s been very positive.”
Ryan expects to finalise his backroom staff in the coming weeks.
“We’re trying to put together a management team and backroom staff, but I’m away on holidays so we expect to have that put together for the back end of July, say.
“It’s an ongoing process, there are a couple of people I want to speak to but they’re away on holidays themselves at the moment, it’s that time of year, so there’s a bit of organising there.
“I certainly think there’s enough talent out there for those jobs. Absolutely, but the news was only released on Monday, I was ratified on Tuesday and I’m away later in the week, so right now it’s not possible to meet some people to chat to them.
“But there have been a few phone calls made already to fellas looking to see if they’ll put their shoulders to the wheel.”