The five key issues awaiting the new Cork coach.
It’s a salient point that McCarthy has been appointed as a coach, not a manager. At the recent meeting of the Cork County Board, the executive made clear that coaching was of high priority for all of the football positions that are available.
In theory, Cork should have plenty of raw talent at their disposal on the back of the provincial dominance they have enjoyed at U-21 level, until this year. But what has become of them?
Those who have progressed to the senior ranks, the likes of Ian Maguire, Brian O’Driscoll and even Aidan Walsh, have never really improved in the way that they should have. This is down to coaching as much as anything else.
As ever, our neighbours show the way. Look at what Éamonn Fitzmaurice has achieved with a far from gifted generation of Kerry footballers.
As a coach, McCarthy has to improve the players that he has at his disposal.
2. His comrades
Now that he has the job, football people in Cork will be keen to find out who McCarthy will bring with him. Having served as a selector under both Conor Counihan and Brian Cuthbert he should have an insight into what’s required at this level. You can be sure that he has men in mind for his team, but it’s a tough process.
There’s a school of thought that the line should be manned by legends that the players respect and whose force of will alone will bring Cork back to where they should be.
This has its merits, but the game is so complex these days that its merit is in decline. An excellent playing career doesn’t necessarily translate itself onto the sideline.
He needs to strike a balance. He needs people who the followers can connect with as well as people who think deeply about the game. It’s an early test.
3. A Base
In the aftermath of Paddy Kelly’s interview with this paper earlier in the year, Fermoy became the centre of the Cork football universe. We all know the story of the gym in the warehouse that the players themselves had to put together and the nomadic existence of the Cork footballers.
To put it politely, this simply was not and is not good enough. This nomadism was all the more pertinent in comparison to the Cork hurlers, who always seemed to be operating out of Cork IT.
One of the biggest obstacles Cork has in football is the sheer size of the county. It’s a long, long way from Clonakilty to Fermoy, never mind from Beara.
Ronan McCarthy has to ensure that his Cork football team operate out of a suitable place that they can call home and that they have access to everything that they need. Sometimes it’s the little things.
4. An Identity
Identities are forged, not given and they take time to create. Ronan McCarthy has three years to give Cork football its identity back. At the moment, it’s incredibly difficult to say what Cork football is all about. There’s no clear style of play, no vision and not much to look forward to.
He has a blank slate in many ways and he needs to use this to his advantage.
A coherent style of play that isn’t based on running and running and hand-passing and hand-passing is a must. Before all that, he needs to get his team playing for each other and playing for the jersey.
Bottle what they did in Limerick against Mayo for a start where they played with passion, confidence and, most importantly, no fear.
If he can forge an identity then the public will follow him and his team. Speaking of which...
5. The public
When it comes to football, the Cork public are as ambitious as they are apathetic. Much of the apathy is feigned, people pretending not to care while much of the ambition isn’t misplaced. Realistically speaking, Cork should be making the All-Ireland quarter-finals every year. With the ‘Super 8’ coming in next year, it’s more important than ever.
Ronan McCarthy needs to give the people of Cork something to support instead of lamenting the fact that not enough people come to support them. Supporters, for the most part, tend to be a fickle bunch. However, giving out about them doesn’t tend to make them more likely to come. Forget about the hurlers, at this stage the support needs to be earned.
While stuck in Division 2, would there be anything wrong with courting the Cork public with a game in Mallow or Clonakilty?
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