WHILE the official ratification won’t take place until he has his management team in place, Paudie Murray will be back as Cork camogie manager for 2021, making it a decade in charge.
The need to replenish his off-field set-up is necessitated by the fact that key figures have moved on to the Cork minor hurling and football managements, but Murray sees that as a positive and hopes that it shows prospective newcomers that the experience gained with the camogie team can be valuable.
‘I normally go to shake things up anyway and I will be doing it this year,’ he says.
‘If we look at our management team from last year, Martin O’Brien has a new role as coach of the minor footballers, so he’s gone.
‘We’re delighted for him and wish him well and hope that he has a successful time there. He’s in the minor football set-up and on the minor hurling side you have Wesley O’Brien and Niall McCarthy, who were with us too, so they’re all positive steps.
‘I think it’s great. From my own point of view, when I’m going out to look at people now, they can see that there is a pathway there to other things as well. Three people involved in the minor set-ups this year, who have been involved with us before – that has to be positive.’
The year just gone saw Cork knocked out of the All-Ireland championship at the semi-final stage by Kilkenny – the first time since 2010 and 2011 that the Rebels have missed two finals in a row.
However, it wasn’t necessarily a difficult decision for Murray – who has guided Cork to four senior All-Irelands during his time at the helm – to stay on.
‘It’s well-documented at the moment that Cork is going through a rebuilding phase,’ he says.
‘I was very excited starting out last year with the new players that came in but the Covid hit us and probably killed any momentum that we were starting to gather at that stage.
‘We really needed the summer to bring the younger girls up to speed, but we had little or no time with them. That was a bit of a downer on our side.
‘Then, we’re back, club championship starts and we’re looking at little time to work with them. A lot of things happened and then, as well as that, you had four major injuries leading into the championship.
‘You had Gemma O’Connor, who had a punctured lung; Julia White had a fractured kneecap; Saoirse McCarthy tore ligaments in her shoulder and Libby Coppinger tore ligaments in her ankle. If you take all of those things into account, we were fighting an uphill battle.
‘From my point of view then, I’m quite determined to rebuild the team. It would be our third time rebuilding a team that had won an All-Ireland and that is our focus.
‘I think we’re nearly there. We will have changes again this year, no question about it. We’re bringing in some younger girls and our goal is to leave Cork camogie in a better position compared to where we got it.’
In that regard, is time the most important ingredient?
‘I think it is,’ Murray says, ‘I think you have to be very patient with it.
‘This is our third year involved in this process and you have to be patient. We never put any pressure on the younger girls coming in – we normally say that it can take up to three years for someone to make it.
‘Some make it before that and some don’t, but they have to be given time. We’ve a couple of very good girls coming again this year, so it’s key that they take the step and it’s key that last year’s girls take another step forward again and hopefully that will help us to get to a final this year.’
When that may be, he’s still unsure.
‘The Camogie Association sent out a draft proposal for the year,’ he says, ‘and that was similar to the normal fixture programme they had in other years.
‘It puzzled me, because I just couldn’t see how it would work this year. A lot of counties have gone back and express their concerns with it, so we are waiting for a new set of proposals. When that’s going to happen, I don’t know.
‘I think that we have to follow the hurling and football this year and give the clubs a chance in the latter end of the year.
‘I don’t know if it’s the right option when things go back to normal or not but, in the present circumstances, I don’t think you’ve any other option.’