DENIS HURLEY lists five Cork footballers for whom 2018 could be a big year
John O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers): The Ross man had an up-and-down 2017 season. He scored three points in the first half against Waterford but that was half of his entire tally, with the other three coming against Mayo after he was brought off against Tipperary and then an unused sub in the Munster final against Kerry.
He will be looked upon to be a leader of what will be a new team under Ronan McCarthy, with consistent performances a priority.
Has buckets of playmaking ability, though the role of a half-forward has changed over the past decade, meaning players have to be all-rounders. A role as a roving corner-forward could also be where O’Rourke is able to shine.
Ryan Price (O’Donovan Rossa): Came in as first-choice goalkeeper during the spring of 2016 but then lost his place to Ken O’Halloran at the start of last year when the Bishopstown man returned to the fold.
Price’s only championship start came in the qualifier loss to Mayo, when he was drafted in before throw-in and kept a clean sheet, and he will hope that he is seen as the better long-term option by McCarthy.
Kiskeam’s Anthony Casey could provide stiff competition in that regard, though, while Mark White of Clonakilty was on the bench for the Mayo game and is another with potential. The talented Ross Donovan was the Cork U21 goalkeeper last year but remains second choice behind Micheál Martin at Nemo Rangers.
Peter Kelleher (Kilmichael): The big full-forward suffered something of a second-season syndrome in 2017 after such an impressive debut campaign.
He didn’t score at all in the championship, starting against Waterford and Tipperary, then – like O’Rourke – being left on the bench for the Munster final and suffering a concussion in a club game which ruled him out for the Mayo qualifier.
Has the potential to improve but it’s arguable that he needs to add extra elements to his game rather than relying on the rest of the team playing to his aerial strengths.
If he can rediscover his 2016 form, he will give Cork a vital goalscoring dimension, something lacking until the Mayo game last year.
Brian O’Driscoll (Tadhg Mac Cárthaigh): Another who needs to move on from the level of ‘promising’, having been a part of the panel since 2014, though there has been ill-luck with injuries in that time.
Won’t be 24 until April so he still has time on his side.
With places up for grabs, he will look to nail down a spot in the half-back line, where he is most effective, though he did function well at wing-forward for UCC under coach Billy Morgan.
That versatility is an asset in the modern game but can be a double-edged sword in that a player is regarded as a plan B in a number of spots without ever being seen as the plan A anywhere.
O’Driscoll has the football to become a nailed-on starter.
Cian Kiely (Ballincollig): Likely to be given a chance to stake a claim in the McGrath Cup and the national league, the Ballincollig man has as good a chance as any newcomer of becoming a key part of the team.
Epitomises the new type of attacking wing-back, capable of getting forward well to take scores, but is not weak in defence either.
A brother of midfielder Seán – another who could be useful to Cork, but work commitments have precluded his involvement – Kiely has been one of Collig’s steadiest performers over the past few years and looks to have the necessary attributes to make the step up.