HAVING soldiered alongside him in the Carbery Rangers attack for over a decade, John O’Rourke knows new Cork football selector John Hayes better than most – and that’s why he’s backing his fellow Rosscarbery man to make the Rebels a more dangerous attacking force this season.
Hayes, along with Bobbie O’Dwyer, is a new addition to the Cork senior football management team and his primary focus will be to add more variety to the Rebels’ attack.
As a former Cork forward himself and still one of the top club forwards in the county, Hayes’ insights and knowledge can help the current Cork attack move to the next level.
‘John is a guy who has a great head for football, he has a football brain and you can see that by the way that he plays the game. He is very strong in his opinions in terms of football too,’ O’Rourke explains.
Together, O’Rourke and Hayes helped turn Carbery Rangers into one of the top club teams in the county. When Ross won their first Cork SFC title in 2016 the deadly duo combined for 0-10 in the county final triumph against Ballincollig. Team-mates at home, they’ll have a new relationship at inter-county level, and O’Rourke feels Hayes will definitely bring something new and fresh to the Cork set-up.
‘All the coaching staff have their own areas of expertise and John’s line will be in attack, helping us to connect better than we did last year and create more opportunities, more goal scoring opportunities – that’s where his experience is,’ O’Rourke says. ‘Hopefully, John can help us be more clinical, link up better together and improve our understanding, and that will lead to us scoring more goals and points.
‘We were clicking in the league last year, then we had the first lockdown and we didn’t have a whole pile of time together then as a group before the Munster semi-final against Kerry so we didn’t have time to build those relationships and understandings in the forward lines.
‘Hopefully, we will get a good run for the next three weeks before matches start so we will get the chance to develop those relationships.’
O’Rourke and his Cork team-mates returned to collective training on Tuesday night as preparations cranked up ahead of the Allianz Football League throw-in next month. Ronan McCarthy’s men are hoping for a short stay in Division 2 as they target promotion to the top tier, and O’Rourke feels the culture and spirit in the camp hints at better days ahead.
‘We want to keep the momentum and the positivity that we have built up in the last two years compared to where we were at before that,’ O’Rourke explains.
‘The spirit and culture in the group has really grown so we really want to push that on in the league because this is a vital league campaign for us.
‘Since we were relegated to Division 3, and bar a couple of blips, it’s been mainly positive and this group has grown together. Everyone has bought into everything we have been asked to do, there is a great culture within the group, there is fierce positivity and people are keen to get going again.’
One of the blips O’Rourke references is the 2020 Munster SFC final loss to Tipperary that came two weeks after Cork dumped Kerry out of the championship. The performance against Tipp wasn’t good enough, O’Rourke agrees.
‘We had to look back and reflect on it, the mistakes that we made, the underperformance because we didn’t perform at all. We went through it but it’s parked now and we want to move on,’ the Ross man says.
‘The group has grown over the last few years, there is experience and youth there, and you have fellas pushing from the U20 team so the competition is fierce, but that’s just what we want and where we need to be.’
On Monday morning O’Rourke and Cork discovered their route to Munster SFC glory – they play either Limerick or Waterford in the semi-final – but before that game rolls around the Rebels have the league to look ahead to. Busy times, but with spirits high and another Rosscarbery man joining him in the Cork set-up, O’Rourke is chomping at the bit to get going again.