Cork’s need for a Director of Football has been raised - but that won’t solve all the problems, says DENIS HURLEY
SADLY, the cadences of a Cork football championship exit are all too familiar by now.
Along with the calls for the removal of the manager – however short he has been in charge – and a whole-scale clearout of the panel – as if there are 30 top-class players ready to step up – comes with the suggestion that a director of football should be appointed.
However, that it’s included in such post-mortems shouldn’t lessen its viability.
Exactly two years ago – July 12th, 2016 – current county board vice-chairman Kevin O’Donovan, then the coaching officer, issued a 25-point plan for the reinvigoration of Gaelic games within the county. The first item on that list was regular, meaningful games for club players; the second was the appointment of directors of hurling and football – incidentally, at the time the footballers were still in the championship while the hurlers had suffered a disappointing defeat to Wexford in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
What the Kilmeen native proposed was an all-encompassing role, helping to ensure a talent pathway from U14 all the way through to senior, acting as a member of the selection committees at each grade. Having such an overseer was designed to ensure development of players tactically, physically, skilfully and personally – in other words, it was a suggestion based on a lot of thought rather than a band-aid to solve a losing run at senior level.
And that, essentially, is what has to be borne in mind when the quick fixes are reeled off after the latest loss. The Cork football ‘crisis’, such as it is, has to be looked at on two levels – the fortunes of the senior team could improve without the structures being radically shaken up, but, while a freshening of the system could and should yield results at adult level, it’s not a fast process by any means.
O’Donovan’s document came when Cork hurling was perceived to be at one of its lowest ebbs, with Kieran Kingston’s debut year as manager not having gone well. A year on and Cork were Munster champions at senior and minor level as well as All-Ireland U17 champions.
Nobody is saying that the same will happen to the Cork footballers in 2019, but as Kingston showed, a manager and his team can’t be judged after a single championship. By the same token, a director of hurling isn’t needed any less.
If, as by rights, Cork had reached the Munster minor football final, they would have at worst reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals but the draw went against them and a semi-final defeat to Kerry brought their year to a premature end. Such an outcome, and a six-point defeat to the Kingdom at U20 level, can be added to the weight of the prosecution’s case, but to do so is somewhat misleading. If Cork had managed to bounce back from the Kerry loss and beat Tyrone, it wouldn’t have changed the need for a director of football. There will likely be an overhaul of the senior panel for next year and the achievement or not of promotion won’t change that need either.
Likewise, if a director of football was appointed tomorrow, it wouldn’t guard against the possibility of disappointing losses at senior next year.
Change takes time and heavy senior defeats will always be the touchstone for talk of change, but conflating every problem into one issue doesn’t help to find solutions.