BOBBIE O’DWYER may not have been expecting the invitation from Ronan McCarthy to become a Cork senior football selector, but he is willing to give it his all.
The Urhan native was planning for another year in charge of the Cork minor side, the most recent campaign ending just before Christmas with a narrow extra-time defeat to Kerry in the Munster final.
However, the man who led the Rebels to the 2019 All-Ireland title was asked by McCarthy to be part of his set-up along with Carbery Rangers’ John Hayes.
‘I was expecting to be staying on with the minors,’ O’Dwyer says.
‘When we won the All-Ireland, we were given a new two-year term and we had 12 months to run on that.
‘It came totally out of the blue and I wasn’t expecting it at all, at all. It was a tough decision, to be honest about it.
‘I’d be a big believer in nurturing teams and we had built a big strong management group with the minor team. A lot of guys had put hard work into developing the structure and we were hoping that we were adding value for those young players.
‘It took a while to see what value you could add to being involved with the seniors. Ronan and I had a good chat and I’m delighted to be on board with the management team of the seniors.’
While Hayes is a greenhorn, otherwise the new set-up features a lot of experience. This will be a fourth year in charge for McCarthy, who led Carbery Rangers to the 2016 county title; Seán Hayes won a county intermediate title with Youghal and took Cork U21s to an All-Ireland final; while coach Cian O’Neill has previously managed Kildare as well as being part of successful Kerry and Mayo football and Tipperary hurling backrooms. O’Dwyer is delighted to be part of it.
‘I’m very much in the learning mode,’ he says, ‘learning from Ronan and Seán and Cian, who have been very helpful and are receptive to ideas.
‘I’ve been part of management groups all my life from a working point of view – there’s always an ultimate boss, somewhere.
‘It’s about building teams and changing teams but understanding that you are part of a team, whether you’re the manager or the most junior member of staff.
‘The greater good of the Cork senior football team is what matters and if we can contribute some way along the line, that’s what’s important.’
O’Dwyer’s last managerial role at adult level was with Macroom, while he has been with O’Donovan Rossa and Legion of Killarney as well as his native Urhan.
When commitments as a bank manager limited the time he could give to club sides, he became involved with Cork development squads, ultimately leading to the job of minor manager.
That there is carry-over from last year in the Cork management is a positive, he feels, as well as the fact that, in line with the recommendation of the five-year plan for football in Cork, there appears to be a streamlined approach to developing players.
‘It’s fantastic that there is continuity and Ronan, Seán and Cian are all experienced guys,’ O’Dwyer says.
‘John and I are coming on board to hopefully contribute something along the way. It’s about getting used to one another and getting to know the players – John will probably be more familiar with some of them, having been a player more recently and I’ll know some of the younger lads from the minor set-up over the last number of years.
‘It’s all part of a pathway, from development squads to minor to U20 to senior and it’s good to have that. I know Ronan would be talking to Keith Ricken in terms of the U20s that would be coming through and Keith was been very helpful to me in my role at minor.
‘It’s good to have those lines of communication, because the last thing we want in the GAA is silos where one area doesn’t know what the other area is going through.
‘It’s good to have those relationships and that communication existing in Cork.’
‘I’ll tell you that better in a couple of weeks’ time!’ he laughs.
‘When you’re dealing with a team, it’s really about getting to know the individuals and it’s just developing that relationship between the players and the selectors.
‘With the minors, we would have had a huge involvement with the parents. Obviously, the younger lads couldn’t drive themselves to training and so the parents had to commit a lot of time and all our communication with the lads would have been via the parents.
‘That’s one part of it that’s very different – you’re dealing directly with the individual. With adults, I find people like to know why they’re doing things and if they understand that, they buy into the concept of the team an awful lot easier. With the younger person, it’s more developmental, the physical and emotional side.
‘At the same time, they’re both all about one team scoring more than the other, so there are a lot of similarities too!’