As simple as flicking a light switch, it will come right for the Cork footballers. But when that will be, Eamonn Ryan can’t say for sure.
It is 18 months since Ryan departed the Cork ladies football scene, with whom he spearheaded 10 All-Ireland final wins, and joined Peadar Healy’s backroom team. His second coming with the Cork footballers, though, hasn’t had too many high notes. Their slide down the pecking order, both in Munster and further afield, has, if anything, quickened a beat.
He joined the Cork ladies at a similarly low ebb in 2004, but the work subsequently carried out which saw them reach the championship summit in October of 2005 was done away from the public eye. Outside of the group, there was little expectation. And even less scrutiny.
That is anything but the case with their male counterparts.
“Things haven’t been going well for a few years. It’s at a very public stage now. The players just can’t avoid hearing the criticism and I suppose that does have an effect,” says the selector.
“It was probably easier to work on it with the girls because there wasn’t that media focus. Anywhere you go, you are going to get a comment about the Cork footballers. The ladies, you’d get a comment from time to time. The ladies got time to develop. The first few league matches we had, we lost them, but we weren’t in the glare of publicity.”
Ryan can’t fault the players’ commitment and does believe the required victory against a Kerry, Mayo or Donegal to turn the tide of negativity towards this group is well within their capabilities.
“It is in their own hands, really. I do think it is going to happen. I can’t say when, but I do genuinely think it is going to happen. They are that committed that it is going to happen for them.
“It could take the tiniest thing to turn it, some fella just grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and others being inspired by that. It is very easy trot out very intellectual ideas about how it could be done. It is quite conceivable it will happen like turning on a switch. I am hoping it will some day and we’ll take off from there.”
His wish from tomorrow’s Munster quarter-final away to Waterford is that every player can walk off the field having given everything.
Sounds simplistic, but when asked had there been a single game during the past year and a half where that had been the case, he struggles to find a watertight example.
Probably the closest Cork came was the 1-18 to 0-12 victory over Mayo in the first round of last year’s league. That result, however, is tempered by the fact the opposition had only four weeks of work under their belt and were still coming to terms with a new management ushered in following a player revolt that led to the resignation of Pat Holmes and Noel Connelly.
They were level with Tipperary as the clock spilled into time added on in the Munster semi-final. They were two clear of Donegal with 18-minutes remaining in their fourth round qualifier clash. They held the same advantage over Galway with 70 minutes run in the first round of this year’s league. They led Meath 0-15 to 0-6 after 45 minutes at Páirc Uí Rinn and were three up on Down with 10 minutes left in their concluding league fixture, again at home.
Cork failed to win any of those aforementioned games. Two were lost, while the latter three ended in stalemate.
“There were games where they played to their potential for quite a period but didn’t finish it out. We don’t get the full trip. It is massively frustrating for the lads. They give it their all, but it just doesn’t seem to happen for them on those days.
“We were every bit as good as Donegal for 40 minutes. If it was a boxing contest, we would have been ahead on points at about the 40th minute. Then things went against us and we didn’t seem to be able to finish the game out. It’s not the lads’ attitude, it’s not their commitment. It’s nothing like that. It’s just three or four years of results not going well.
“As things stand and looking at it objectively, Kerry are one [in Munster], Tipp are two and Clare and Cork are fighting for third place. That’s the way I see it anyway at the moment.”
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