New Cork manager Ronan McCarthy says he and his team aren’t going to look too far ahead in this year’s Allianz League - because if you do “you can be brought down to earth very quickly”.
Cork will want to get out of Division 2, but McCarthy says: “It’s hugely competitive. Cavan and Roscommon were Division 1 last year.
“Meath are a bit like ourselves, thinking they’d be back out of Division 2 fairly quickly, but this is their fourth or fifth season there.
“Winning away is a very difficult thing to do. I’ve experience of that myself as a player, losing to Wicklow in Aughrim and Westmeath in Mullingar at a time, when Cork were a Division 1 team.
“Even if you go down a division, to Division 3, there some difficult games. There you have Derry and Armagh, for example.
“Promotion is going to be very difficult, but it’s important to keep it one game at a time. It’s the best and only way to approach the league because if you look too far ahead of yourself you can be brought down to earth very quickly.”
There’s no better illustration of that than tomorrow night’s opponents, Tipperary (5pm).
“We’ve had great difficulty in beating them, like last year at Páirc Uí Rinn, when we got there eventually.
“Tipperary are an example of a team, who’ve been patient and built well. They’ve worked hard at underage level as well.
“There’s a good group there with an astute manager, and Tipp are probably further down the line than we are in terms of progress.
“Our job here is to get the mix right for the game, be positive coming into it and hope the qualities that are there come out in the fixture.
“The main thing for us is to steer a steady course and not get too excited either way results-wise.
“Obviously, we want to win the game, but let’s not be too short term because leagues are won over two or three months.”
McCarthy makes a simple point about management: he enjoys it, regardless of winning titles, as he did when managing Carbery Rangers to the Cork senior title in 2016.
“I believe there is a group of players in Cork capable of being successful. That’s important because I believe in the group.
“It’s also something I enjoy doing, be it at inter-county or club level. There was a lot which ticked the boxes for me.
“Winning anything validates the approach, the work and the type of work you do. I did the same thing with Douglas ten years ago. You always evaluate your work at the end of a season. Have you progressed the group you were with?”
He saw signs of potential in Cork last year, particularly their extra-time defeat to Mayo in the qualifiers in Limerick.
“It was a game Cork could have won. It gave a very strong message that Cork aren’t a million miles off the top teams and that there are very fine margins between winning and losing.
“Even if Cork had been well beaten, it wouldn’t have changed my mind. I’ve been involved in three of the last five years and would be familiar with a lot of the players.
“Being involved with Carbery Rangers, I was able to see a lot of club players. I believed I had something to offer.”
Part of that may involve changing the mindset. Ask McCarthy if Cork have underachieved, for instance, and he takes a clear-eyed view of the question.
“I always find that very interesting. Cork is a football county that has seven All-Irelands and yet we seem to regard ourselves as having some sort entitlement to be competitive.
“We have to cast off that notion because there are no guarantees. You work very hard and you hope the quality of the work improves the group, bringing it to a level, where there are competitive and capable of winning trophies. Dublin won four of the last five All-Irelands and, since Cork won it last in 2010, only a couple of counties have managed to win it.”
In the here and now he’s also trying to make his points clearly: “We’ve tried to get the message across about how we want to play, a style of playing. Tactical awareness, our decision making, skill levels, which can never be ignored. That process has just started. It involves giving out consistent messages over time in the hope that it will get through.”
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