Fergal Ryan is upfront about where his team is at. The Blackrock manager could have spun us a different line had he wanted to but opted against.
Not since 1998 has a team represented Cork in the Munster club SHC without wearing the title of county champions.
It is Blackrock now and it was Blackrock back then too. Imokilly, on both occasions, denied them silverware in the ‘little All-Ireland’. It makes for a sort of cruel symmetry. Fergal Ryan was playing back then, he’s manager now.
His tone and, indeed, his comments below are not to be interpreted as negative or is he employing the usual managerial approach of ‘we’ll be massively up against it’. Rather, he’s painting a realistic picture of his camp since their 3-13 to 0-18 county final defeat to the East Cork divisional outfit a fortnight ago.
Ryan’s charges reconvened at their Chruch Road base on Thursday week last. It was a light session, more of a get together than anything else. They’ve since trained three times. The focus and intensity, according to the manager, wasn’t what it was prior to the county decider.
Difficult, though, to envisage it being any other way. And that’s before you factor in the loss of half-forward Shane O’Keeffe who has moved to Australia and the hamstring injury which is likely to sideline centre-back Eoin Smith.
“If you look at the focus we had prior to the county final, it is very different to the last couple of sessions we had. If we were judging our most recent sessions on intensity and commitment to training, it was a lot better before the county final.
“We’ll see how focused we are once that ball is thrown in on Sunday. You lose a county final and it is mentally tough to get yourself back up to where you were before the county final.
"We are coming in from a harder position than Na Piarsaigh, for sure, who won their county final and will be carried into this game by the elation of their win over Kilmallock. We lost. There is a lull and a low and you are trying to pick it up again. That’s not always easy.
“We are in a unique situation, a situation we were hoping not to find ourselves in as you’d much rather represent Cork as county champions.
"Mentally, the challenge will be can the lads do it after the loss and how long can they do it for. Will it be a good 20 minutes, half an hour, 40 minutes or can they go for the full hour? We just have to wait and see.”
Ryan won three county SHC medals during his playing days (1999, 2001 and ‘02). Factor in the aforementioned campaign of ‘98 and on four occasions did he line out for the Rockies in Munster club action. Only once did they reach the provincial final, losing to Ballygunner by 2-14 to 0-12 in the 2001 decider.
“There is regret that we didn’t win a Munster and challenge for an All-Ireland with the team we had. There was Wayne Sherlock, the two Brownes and a good few more who had played for Cork at minor and U21 level.
"There is not as much experience with this team, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. Experience can be got at if the appetite is there. We are hoping to bring the fighting appetite to it.
“Wayne [Sherlock] and I were involved as players back then. Now, we are involved on the management side with the chance of delivering in Munster. It will be a very hard task, possibly harder than when we were there in the late nineties and early noughties. It is a chance nonetheless.”
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