New Cork senior hurling coach John Meyler has described taking over the Rebel hurlers as the “pinnacle” of his career, adding there’s a far higher level of expectation on Leeside facing into 2018.
Rank outsiders Cork stormed to an unexpected Munster senior title last summer, and Meyler, a selector under outgoing manager Kieran Kingston, agreed Cork exceeded most people’s expectations.
“This time last year people were only looking for a performance, really, from the Cork hurlers. The thing was that after the Tipperary match in the championship, that level of performance was repeated against Waterford in the Munster semi-final.
“People were happy with those performances, but there was a level of expectation when we got to the next match, the Munster final against Clare, an expectation of success.
“That was delivered on, and you saw the emotion from the followers that day in Thurles - there was a massive crowd from Cork, the same for the All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park against Waterford.
“So there’s an expectation going into 2018 that wasn’t there in 2017.”
Meyler, born in Wexford, joined St Finbarr’s when he moved to Cork in the 70s, winning county medals in both codes with the south city club.
He was a panelist when Cork won the All-Ireland senior hurling title in 1986 and has had a previous spell as a selector with Cork, in 2002.
He has managed several club teams in Cork as well as the Wexford, Kerry, and Carlow senior hurling sides.
Last year he doubled up as a senior selector and Cork U21 manager, and yesterday he was given a two-year term as senior coach.
“I’m at this (coaching) 35 years in all. I took a Barrs U16 hurling team years ago, they were the first team I coached, and now it’s Cork.
“It’s the pinnacle, really. It’s an extremely difficult, challenging position, it merits huge attention to detail. We’ll have to do it right, absolutely right.”
Meyler said he is still putting his backroom team together.
“It’s a matter of dotting i’s and crossing t’s at the moment. The important thing in inter-county management at the moment is the team rather than any single individual.
“I want to get my team right, and that’s the most important thing, I want to get in the best team possible to help Cork hurling — that’s it in a nutshell. The important thing is the team, that’s what I want to stress, rather than the individual. Getting the right culture is the vital thing.”
Meyler takes over a young Cork side, which features several players who broke on to the county senior side this season — Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, Shane Kingston and Luke Meade. He stressed the need for more new players, however.
“We need to find another Mark Coleman, another Darragh Fitzgibbon — more new players for next year. We need to build up the squad, that’s the key thing.
“The talent is coming through. A lot of the U21s — Sean O’Donoghue, Darren Browne, Billy Hennessy, Chris O’Leary, David Griffin — those guys can expect to get their chance in the Munster senior hurling league next year, a chance then to make the panel for the national league and to put themselves in the shop window for the championship.
“Those players will get the opportunities that the younger players got early last year. There’s a process — training, the Munster league, the national league — which is two or three weeks earlier starting than last year, so lads have to hit the ground running, and then the championship. You have the Fitzgibbon as well to factor in, the Munster championship has a different format... there are a lot of different nuances, so a bigger panel is very important, one where you have two players for every position.”
The new hurling championship format will present its own challenges next year, he added.
“The games are going to come thick and fast next year,” said Meyler. “As distinct from last year, when you had the league, then a championship game — then two or three weeks to the next championship game and so on. It’ll be different next year. There’ll be a lot of focus on rest and recovery rather than training.
“I’m aware of the challenges involved because in my time with Carlow we would have had four games in five weeks, and the same with Kerry when I managed them. Having those quick turnarounds, playing week on week, that can take a toll on people in terms of physical demands but also mentally. The mental pressure and stress to perform two or three Sundays in a row can be difficult when you compare it to last year’s Munster championship — we beat Tipperary and didn’t play Waterford for four weeks.
“In the latter case, the players come down and you can build them back up again for the game — the new way it’ll be week on week. You’re doing no training in that kind of scenario, just resting lads during the week when they have to go to work, obviously, as well. The demands on players are huge.”
Denis Ring (Fermoy) has been appointed U21 coach for a two-year term while All-Ireland U17 winning coach John Considine (Sarsfields) will take on the role of Minor coach for the next two years.
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