THEY’VE been pilloried in the media, largely ignored in their own backyard and forced to accept that they’ll always play second fiddle to the county’s hurlers – but all that suits the Cork footballers just fine, according to a revealing insight published today.
Cork attacker Conor McCarthy, writing in today’s All-Ireland final special in the Irish Examiner, traces the development of this side back to 2004, and says that despite the number of Croke Park disappointments since, the players retain huge pride in what they do.
McCarthy, who is not part of the panel at present, admits that some of the criticism of Conor Counihan’s side has been “brutal”, but explains: “This is probably one of the most intriguing things about the Cork panel. The opinions that have been formed don’t worry them. Anyone who knows them well will testify to the fact that it’s not an issue.”
The Skibbereen wing forward writes: “It wouldn’t be an effort by the players to be aloof, or a two-fingered sign to the detractors. It’s just the chemistry of the squad. They would be pretty apathetic regarding criticism, accepting it when it’s justified, ignoring it when it’s not, but very rarely getting self-righteous over it. No one tries to create a siege mentality. They simply value the collective and place very little emphasis on external influences.
“These players won’t kiss the jersey, pump the fist to the camera or fall into the crowds at games; they are more the “get on with it” type of characters with huge personal pride in what they do.”
Cork will appear in their third All-Ireland final in four years Sunday, and have been to the last four on six successive occasions. Though the future would appear to be far brighter for the footballers than it does for the county’s hurlers, McCarthy says the former are in no doubt regarding the public’s affections.
“They accept the fact that football will always be a second sport in Cork to hurling. It seems that, by and large, the Cork public don’t really know the players the same way their equivalents would in Kildare or Down. This distance, in tandem with some frustrating performances, hasn’t exactly led to a close player-fan relationship. However... these players prefer the anonymity.”
Cork use psychologists or “mental coaches” quite regularly: “It’s no secret that Cork have been accused of being mentally weak in the past. In all honesty, Those notions never really merited any talk in the camp. Whether the allegations are true or not, mental coaching was now being addressed by all the top sides. Cork wanted to be up there and so they bought into it. When so much effort and time is spent on every other physical need, it surely makes sense to address mental fitness.”
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