BY DONAL O’SULLIVAN
RONAN Hurley is a man on a mission. The Schull native has a goal and he is determined to succeed, in what will be a hectic period for the 22-year-old final year UCC student.
His immediate aims are simple: improve as a player, secure promotion with Cork City back to the Premier Division and complete his Commerce degree.
Having recently put pen to paper on a 12-month contract extension, which he signed back in November, Hurley is not looking beyond that immediate time frame. It promises to be a critical period, both personally and for the club that he initially joined as an U17 academy player.
Having lined out in 22 of City’s 27 league fixtures last season, the current left back was happy with his overall performance over the course of the season but is fully aware that he will need to improve as an all-round defender if he is to develop his own game.
‘Looking back at the start we had, I wasn’t too happy with my own performances but as a team we weren’t playing great either. We were making some individual errors which were costing us,’ he explains.
‘If you take that poor start out of it, we built on some good performances and I felt I had a much better second half of the season. I got a hamstring injury coming into the mid-season break. I got back into the team when I recovered from that and I feel like I solidified my place in defence.’
While Hurley considered himself a good defender growing up, he is honest in his admission that this won’t be sufficient given the way the game is currently played. Two assists last season was progress but attacking and crossing is something he openly admits needs improving.
‘Growing up I would have felt I was a natural defender. But I wouldn’t class myself as a so-called attacking full back,’ he says.
‘These days, some full backs are converted from wingers and are very comfortable in attacking situations. I do feel I am good at crossing but I definitely need to improve that side of my game in order to push on to help the team,’ added the final year commerce student.
Obviously adding assists to his game will only benefit the team. Is that his aim and if so, where does he feel this inspiration can come from?
‘Years ago, defenders just had to defend but nowadays, full backs are becoming one of the most creative players on the pitch. I’m a Man United fan so I’d try to watch Luke Shaw, especially last year when he was playing well, to try to pick up on where to improve,’ he says.
What about their ‘friendly rivals’ Liverpool and the performances of Andy Robertson. Is he someone that defines the modern day full back?
‘You just have to look at what himself and Trent are doing in regards to assists and goals. It’s unbelievable. That’s my job now, to evolve and to improve. When I do watch Liverpool I would keep an eye on Robertson for sure. He’s a very good defender and an unbelievable attacker as well,’ he says.
Closer to home, Hurley’s current manager, Colin Healy, is also providing some advice on what is required.
‘Colin would have had me with the U19s as well. He is very good. We have a good relationship. He knows what I’m good at and where I need to improve. If I can just add that extra bit in the final third, I’d like to think I can become a complete full back,’ he explains.
Following a disappointing campaign in the SSE Airtricity First Division, where Cork City finished sixth, the former Bunratty United underage star feels that it wasn't a fair reflection of what the current crop of players are capable of.
‘Going into the season we were all hoping we could go straight back up, whether that was promotion or through the playoffs,’ he admits, ‘But we had a poor start which left us trying to catch up for the rest of the season. When you look back at that bad run, if you look at the games we weren’t that bad, it was just some individual mistakes here and there that cost us.’
So what changed?
‘We cut out those errors and mistakes. It wasn’t until mid-season when we brought in a few players and the crowd started coming back that we really started to kick off’.
It was a much better second half to the season, something he also credits the returning fans for.
‘If you look for positives from the second half of the season, there was a massive buzz around the place. Turner’s Cross was buzzing with a couple of thousand fans. Our last game against Galway was a dead rubber for us, but there were still 3,000 fans at it so that shows the support that we have in Cork and that they have belief in us and that there is something good coming,’ Hurley says.
He’s hoping that next season will be a more satisfactory one and there is only one goal in mind with a view to building and progressing.
‘Promotion, that’s the aim’ he explained. ‘Hopefully next year will be a big year for us. I’m not looking beyond that.
‘We have added a few players so a good start will be important. Hopefully fans will be there and we give them something to shout about. It’s up to us to get them into Turner’s Cross. The recent U17 cup victory was a great boost too’ he said.
‘There’s some West Cork lads on that panel which is obviously great for youngsters playing in the West Cork league. It shows that there is a path to a higher level and just highlights the level of coaching in West Cork. There’s others playing at international level too so that can only be good for us which will push us to improve.’