Today’s Munster semi-final marks the 25th game of Peadar Healy’s spell as Cork manager. Here is a chequered reign in numbers, as tallied by Eoghan Cormican
1. The winning margin at Fraher Field on May 27. Prior to Cork’s brush with humiliation at Dungarvan, the counties had met on nine occasions in the Munster championship since Waterford’s 1-9 to 0-11 provincial semi-final win over the Rebels in July of 1960. Cork averaged 2-16 across those nine games. The average winning margin stood at 15 points. Now, contrast this with the panicked scenes at Dungarvan as James Loughrey tackled Paul Whyte to the ground close to goal seven minutes into second-half stoppages.
2. Excluding the McGrath Cup, the Rebel footballers have twice managed back-to-back victories under the present management. Monaghan and Down were both taken at Páirc Uí Rinn during rounds five and six of last year’s league. That July, successive wins over Limerick and Longford were achieved in the qualifiers, Cork’s first sequence of championship triumphs since 2013. Probably worth noting that the counties conquered on that occasion were Limerick and Clare. For a group who’ve been so consistent in mentioning ‘consistency’ off the field, they’ve been dreadfully inconsistent inside the white lines.
3. Three times during his chairman’s address at last December’s convention Ger Lane made it explicitly clear that the Cork footballers must do better in 2017. There was no mincing of words: “The team is in transition, but we have the players and we should be much more competitive.
“This team is fully resourced and financed and we must see a major improvement from our team management and players in the league and championship in 2017.
“Cork football should be in a much better position and questions have to be asked if it doesn’t happen in 2017.”
4. Cork’s current unbeaten run. Mind you, that includes the aforementioned stumble over Waterford, a draw at home to Down, and a further stalemate with Meath during which they let slip a nine-point advantage. Cork last went five games unbeaten in January and February of 2014 and two of those wins were over third-level outfits in the McGrath Cup.
5. Years passed since Cork contested an All-Ireland semi-final. As Paul Kerrigan remarked in these pages before the Waterford game: “This is my tenth season and in the first five years, we were the team to beat. Now, we are trying to get up there again. It is a different challenge.”
More damning was Paddy Kelly’s summation when he spoke to Kieran Shannon in January: “I suppose, if I thought Cork had a realistic chance of winning the 2017 All-Ireland, that would change my thinking and I’d be willing to go back and play some part. But in my mind, that’s not a realistic goal.”
6. Midfielders looked at by the current administration. Sean Kiely and Andrew O’Sullivan figured in 2016, but are no longer on the scene. From the remaining quartet — Aidan Walsh, Alan O’Connor, Ian Maguire, and Ruairi Deane — management does not know strongest partnership. Deane/Walsh, Deane/Maguire, Deane/O’Connor and Maguire/Walsh have been tried in recent games.
7. Current panelists who saw game-time during the 2010 All-Ireland final win over Down.
8. The difference between Cork and Clare at the end of March’s Division 2 fixture, but for the first time since 1997, it was the Banner who had come out on top. A real nadir for Healy’s group.
9. Survivors from the 2012 Munster final-winning side. Eoin Cadogan, Michael Shields, Alan O’Connor, Aidan Walsh, Paul Kerrigan, Colm O’Neill, and Donncha O’Connor started the 3-16 to 0-13 win over Clare. Mark Collins and Barry O’Driscoll were introduced as second-half substitutes. No other member of the current panel has played on a winning Munster final team.
10. Eamonn Ryan’s All-Ireland title count with the ladies before joining the men’s set-up in December of 2015. Is his coaching expertise being fully utilised by management?
11. Months since Eoin Cadogan was spotted in a red jersey. The qualifier defeat to Donegal on July 30 marked the last occasion he togged out for Cork. The full-back had started all but one of the preceding seven league and three championship games.
12. Peadar Healy’s dozen disappearing acts when it comes to print media duties. On five occasions last year and seven times this year, either Eoin O’Neill or Eamonn Ryan were sent out in the manager’s place to address the print media after a game. Healy has spoken to newspaper journalists after just three games in 2017. Of the five championship matches he has overseen, he has engaged with scribes after only one: The 2016 qualifier defeat to Donegal.
13. Shirt worn by Donegal’s Paddy McBrearty when terrorising the Cork defence for 11 points (four frees) during last year’s fourth-round qualifier. Answers on a postcard as to the identity of the last player to inflict such damage on a Rebel rearguard. Before you say James O’Donoghue, 2014 Munster final, the Legion lad managed only 0-10 that day.
14. Number of scores (1-13) conceded per game. Cork’s average concession rate of 1-15 during last year’s league is, ultimately, what saw them relegated from Division 1.
15. Most farmers would see this as a particularly small herd of sheep, but we reckon it’s just the right size when drawing on Tomás Ó Sé’s comparison of the Cork players to a “herd of sheep going into a field for the first time and cutting loose around the place”. His remark came on the Sunday Game the day after Cork’s escape from Dungarvan.
16. When Cork GAA coaching officer Kevin O’Donovan broke ranks at the end of last July’s county board meeting to circulate his 16-page document for reform of Cork GAA, proposal number 16 recommended the establishment of a player development program. He called for a coordinated program, to be overseen by a director of football, which would bring minor and U21 players through to senior level.
He has a point. Seven Munster U21 titles have been put away since 2007, but that success hasn’t translated to senior level.
17. Casualty list at the outset of the 2016 season. This resulted in 11 league debuts being handed out, while 12 players who saw championship game-time had not lined out during that year’s league or McGrath Cup. The dozen men were Donncha O’Connor, Tom Clancy, Sean Powter, Stephen Cronin, Conor Dorman, Alan O’Connor, Paddy Kelly, Noel Galvin, Alan Cadogan, Aidan Walsh, John O’Rourke, and Sean White.
18. The margin of defeat to Roscommon in last year’s league, 4-25 to 3-10, at Páirc Uí Rinn. It is the largest tally ever conceded by a Cork team in a league fixture. Healy said after the game: “I just feel, leaving the pitch, that there’s an awful lot of work to be done. We, the management, need to find answers and find answers fairly fast.”
19. The office of An Taoiseach has changed hands 19 times since Cork last fell to Tipperary in successive summers. Other than Kerry, no county in Munster has recorded back-to-back championship wins over Cork since Tipperary in 1939 and ’40. Éamon de Valera, in case you’re wondering, was in charge at the time.
20. Starts handed to Mark Collins, Paul Kerrigan, Ian Maguire, and Fermoy’s Tomás Clancy by the present management. Favourite students. Kerrigan is the sole player from this quartet to start each league and championship game.
21. Returning to Kevin O’Donovan’s blueprint, proposal number 21 called for the establishment of a Cork supporters’ club. The appetite for one certainly exists among grassroots. Had such an organisation been in place in recent years, funds could have been made available through this body to establish a gym for the county footballers and avoid the embarrassing situation this spring where they had to operate out of a makeshift warehouse in Fermoy.
22. Days until the Munster football final. July 2 is supposed to be ‘open house’ day down at the Páirc, an afternoon when Cork officials invite the neighbours over to check out their shiny new gaff. Expect high blood pressure at Páirc Uí Rinn should Tipp look to torpedo these plans and delay the reopening.
23. The number of players from the five Cork Munster U21 winning teams between 2011 and 2016 who went on to play championship at senior level (the 12 players in bold togged out at Fraher Field). They are Damien Cahalane, Tom Clancy, Aidan Walsh, Colm Sheehan, Mark Collins, John O’Rourke, Barry O’Driscoll, Donal Óg Hodnett, Ruairi Deane, Tomás Clancy, Luke Connolly, Brian Hurley, Alan Cadogan, Brian O’Driscoll, Conor Dorman, Sean Kiely, Ian Maguire, Stephen Cronin, Sean White, Peter Kelleher, Kevin Crowley, Michael Hurley, and Sean Powter.
24. Games played under present management. The report card shows 12 wins, nine defeats and three draws. Compare this to the first 24 games of Brian Cuthbert’s tenure, when Cork recorded 17 wins, drew one, and lost six. Comparing league results, Cuthbert achieved twice as many wins as Healy (11 to 5), despite dining at the top table in 2014 and ’15, whereas this spring was spent below in the second division.
25. We’ll wait until 7pm this evening to write this one.
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