Kevin O’Donovan, coaching officer of the Cork County Board, has called for the county to appoint directors of hurling and football.
At last night’s County Board meeting at the Nemo Rangers complex, O’Donovan delivered a wide-ranging, and well-received speech in the wake of Cork’s disappointing loss to Tipperary in the Munster SHC on Sunday. In it, he said he believed Cork hurling was now in crisis.
“It’s something I have asked myself ever since we were well-beaten by Kilkenny in the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final, is Cork hurling in crisis?” he said.
“I didn’t think it at the time, but, walking through the square in Thurles on Sunday, seeing the supporters with their tails between their legs, I realised that yes, it is. There was no anger, nobody giving out about the referee or anything, I only heard apathy, people saying that’d need never support Cork hurling again, that it’s finished.”
A key ingredient in reversing the downward trend of recent times was the appointment of directors of hurling and football, he felt.
“It’s a hot topic, and it’s never raised at this board,” he said, “but I see a role for a director of hurling and a director of football.
“Maybe it would be a voluntary or a part-time role, but I see a massive deficit in terms of linking teams. Can you look at the different Cork teams at senior, intermediate, U21 and minor levels and say that there is a style of play? Certainly not.
“A director of hurling could facilitate that, not undermine a management team but support it. Whatever tactic is employed, let it be integrated. I’d have major concerns about strength and conditioning too, it needs to be centralised, with fewer appointment but of a higher quality.”
Prior to O’Donovan’s contribution, county chairman Ger Lane had called for encouragement and support of the team rather than criticism. “The results in the senior and intermediate games were disappointing,” he said.
“Every effort was made to have the team right on the day, but for an inexplicable reason that didn’t happen. People shouldn’t be overly critical, encouragement is needed rather than criticism.
“We should be supportive and hopefully the team will get back to the form displayed in the league relegation play-off against Galway up in Galway.” Speaking next, O’Donovan did also make the point that the senior hurling team was not the primary problem.
“It would be remiss of us not to talk about Sunday,” he said. “I can understand the frustration and anger among supporters. They want to attack players, management, tactics – I know people look for quick solutions. There was a film out earlier this year [Hail, Caesar!] and it had a great line: ‘Would that it were so simple.’ A long road has brought us to this point. The base of elite players is not at the level it was 10 years ago, the strength in depth has eroded dramatically.
“The club championships are not what they were, we’re trying to produce players for cut-throat intercounty action but I’m not sure we have domestic competitions that are cut-throat enough. There is far too much discussion about personalities, ex-players’ personalities and current board members’ personalities. We need the talk to be about polices, to make this a board of ideas.
“We have to ask ourselves about the image of our board. Are the public happy with the image we’re projecting? We’ll take flak as much as anyone, we all have the best interests of Cork at heart.
“We have to see where the breakdown is happening, the good underage players that are being lost along the line. We have to be more critical of the development-squad system, of which I’m a part myself.
“We have to get back out and support city clubs more at grassroots level and in schools. In the rural areas, we have to look at structures or else the number of clubs will diminish, if there has to be amalgamation then so be it.
“I don’t think the clubs are happy with the Rebel Óg set-up, and I’m on the committee what set it up, but maybe we need to look at it again.
“I accept it’s easy to present a shopping list, especially when Páirc Uí Chaoimh is under development, but if we can isolate the things we need to do, we can prioritise and find solutions. Blaming the corner-forwards last Sunday doesn’t cut it as far as I’m concerned,” he concluded, to sustained applause.
Lane pointed out that a strategic review committee, of which O'Donovan is part, is currently compiling a report and he didn't wish to prejudice thar before it is presented later in the year.
On foot of a suggestion from Aidan O’Rourke, representing the Carbery divisional board, that delegates go back to club and that an open discussion be held on where Cork as a county is going, Lane said that he would have no problem facilitating such a meeting.
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