Former Cork and Bishopstown footballer Barry Coffey has expressed grave concern at the county’s steep decline in both codes and believes there are serious issues blighting Cork GAA not being addressed.
Both Cork minor teams, along with the county’s U21 hurlers and junior footballers, suffered championship defeats, the senior hurlers’ win over Dublin at Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday evening the sole positive in an otherwise septimana horribilis.
Coffey, who lined out on the 1989 and ’90 All-Ireland winning Cork football teams, has called for “radical” action at all age-groups so as to return the county to its once high standing in both codes.
“You look at the general state of play in Cork in both hurling and football at all grades, there are serious issues. And I don’t believe they being addressed in any serious fashion,” said Coffey.
“Fine, we will get through this season, but something has got to be done of a radical nature at all grades of football and hurling to get Cork back to the standing it had. We have drifted so far behind in recent years it is not funny.”
Coffey’s is the latest voice in a growing chorus of criticism at how far the county has fallen in recent times. Former Cork footballer Derek Kavanagh, writing in these pages, claimed the Cork brand is broken, while coaching officer Kevin O’Donovan, addressing a county board meeting after the hurlers’ defeat to Tipperary, said Cork hurling is in crisis.
“I am not close enough to the set-up to comment on what the real issues are other than we have never been as low in the rankings in the context of the overall country as we are now,” Coffey continued.
“Success breeds success. It is easy for one team to bounce off another team that is winning. We are just not getting that run of form at the moment, which is a big concern overall. It riles me to see the state they are in.”
Similar to Kieran Kingston’s hurlers against Dublin last weekend, Coffey said a performance is of no relevance to the footballers on Saturday in Thurles. Getting a result should represent their sole focus — not since 2003 have Cork exited the football championship before mid-July.
“At this stage, it is just about getting to the next level. It is about getting a win to resettle the troops and calm the ship a small bit. Last Saturday’s hurling match was no great event, but it was a win. It is all about competing. If you are gone at this stage of the summer, it is an awful long time until the league comes around next January. Saturday evening is about getting back up on the horse.”
Coffey wasn’t surprised by the Munster semi-final defeat to Tipperary and is hopeful management have been successful picking up the pieces.
“We had no great form coming into the Tipperary game as we had shown poor form throughout the league.
“We could have had a worse qualifier draw. Limerick will be another banana skin as they will have nothing to lose. We had an incident in 1988 where we were nearly caught in Askeaton. We were haunted to get out of there. Limerick won’t be any pushover. They will be taking confidence from the fact Tipp beat Cork.
“There is a good bunch of lads there in the Cork set-up and it isn’t like they aren’t putting in the effort. I would love to see them getting back on the mantle. They have a job to do and I have no doubt that their confidence is rattled to a fairly high degree. Back in the day when we were playing Tipperary or Limerick in a Munster quarter-final or semi-final, you prepared yourself mentally, but you didn’t fear them. I suspect Cork are going up with a little bit of doubt in their heads. It is important they work that out of their heads and say to themselves, ‘we are going there and we are going there to win’.”
Despite losing their last two championship outings in Thurles, Coffey doesn’t believe the decision to concede home advantage so to ensure both Cork teams were on the one bill was incorrect. “Thurles is a fine venue. I would have no concerns playing there.”
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