BY KIERAN McCARTHY
BRIAN Herlihy believes Cork have struck a winning formula by involving recently retired inter-county players in the coaching set-up.
In his first season as Cork minor football manager, the Dunmanway man – who lives in Bishopstown – has surrounded himself with an impressive backroom team that includes 2010 All-Ireland winners Noel O’Leary (selector) and Alan Quirke (goalkeeping coach), as well as coach Bernie Collins (Castlehaven) and selectors Donal McCarthy (Valley Rovers) and Mick Comyns (St Finbarr’s).
Another 2010 All-Ireland winner, Derek Kavanagh, is involved in the U17 setup, which has close links to the minor ranks because ‘that’s where next year’s minors are’.
Herlihy believes the experience in his management team is a big asset, as they look to reverse Cork’s recent poor form at minor football level. The county hasn’t won a Munster minor title since 2010 and an All-Ireland MFC title since 2000.
‘A minor setup, I feel, needs players who are recently retired from the inter-county scene,’ Herlihy explained.
‘For example, Noel was also involved with the U15 development squads. He is a player that the players know, they have seen him win an All-Ireland and play at the very top level, and he commands respect.
‘It’s great to see fellas like Noel, Bernie and Alan involved because these are the next generation of coaches, selectors and managers.
‘You can follow that through to Conor McCarthy and Paudie Kissane who are involved in senior level with Cork now, and with the hurlers you have Diarmuid O’Sullivan and Pat Hartnett. It’s a welcome development.
‘These fellas command respect and the minors are all trying to emulate these fellas who have achieved the success that these young fellas want to achieve. It helps make the whole dynamic of the team more positive. They want to be the next Noel O’Leary, the next Alan Quirke, the next Paudie Kissane, and who better to learn off than the players themselves, and who they have watched over the last decade or more.’
Herlihy was appointed Cork minor manager last August, taking over from Donal O’Sullivan (Castletownbere), and his managerial CV includes being in charge of the Rebel Óg U17 development squad last season.
He has watched on as Cork have failed to make a real impact at minor football level in recent times, and it’s a trend that he feels can be reversed.
‘There is no reason why Cork shouldn’t challenge for the big prizes,’ he said.
‘I think that Cork were incredibly unlucky last year against Kerry in the Munster semi-final. That’s a game they could have won. And look at Kerry after – they went on to win the All-Ireland.
‘The difference between winning and losing can be inches, and Cork have lost a lot of games by a point or so over the last few years. We are hoping to reverse that trend and we are putting in a huge effort.
‘We want to get to a Munster final and to get to Croke Park and to have success, plus we want to develop inter-county footballers who can step up to U21 level, which is as important as winning an All-Ireland.’
Herlihy added: ‘People will say that we haven’t won a Munster minor in a few years or an All-Ireland since 2000, and we can use that as motivation rather than as pressure.
‘There is a very strong football following in Cork and there is an expectation there that Cork should be winning the big prizes.’
First up for Cork is a Munster MFC quarter-final at home to Tipperary on April 13th.
‘We have nothing else on our mind other than Tipperary,’ the Cork boss said.
‘We are playing a couple of challenge games and we’re training away, all focussed on Tipperary on April 13th in Páirc Uí Rinn. It’s a formidable Tipperary team that won the equivalent U16 tournament; they beat us by a point. All the way up, from U14 up, there was little more than a point between these two teams, so it will be a tough game.
‘The commitment and energy shown by the players so far – and by their parents and clubs – has been fantastic. Without that cooperation, enthusiasm and support, this wouldn’t be possible and it would be much more difficult.’
There has been a significant turnover of players from last year’s panel, and among the few survivors are Clonakilty duo Mark White and Liam O’Donovan (who is vice captain), Nathan Walsh (Douglas) who is captain, Ryan Foley (Buttevant) and Shane O’Driscoll (Glanmire).
West Cork interest in the minor setup will focus around Mark Buckley (Dohenys), Sean Minihane (Ilen Rovers), Damien Gore (Kilmacabea), Sean Ryan (Ballinascarthy), Liam O’Donovan and Mark White (Clonakilty), Dylan Scannell (Ahán Gaels) and Rory O’Driscoll (Garnish), who makes the long trip from Beara for training.