BY DENIS HURLEY
CORK used four goalkeepers during the seven Allianz Football League Division 1 games, and O’Donovan Rossa goalkeeper Ryan Price would appear to be in a great position in the battle for the number one jersey come the summer.
Manager Peadar Healy had indicated during the league that his four netminders – Price, Ken O’Halloran, Brendan O’Connell and Micheál Martin – would be rotated before he decided on his three for the championship.
However, while O’Halloran started the opening-day win against Mayo and then the heavy loss to Roscommon, O’Connell and Martin only each played one game, against Donegal and Dublin respectively.
Introduced for the win against Monaghan – having initially been named as a sub, with Martin announced as the starter – Price held the spot for the remainder of the campaign, taking in the win over the Farney Men, the victory against Down and the final-day loss to Kerry, which saw the Rebels relegated.
In his three matches, the Skibbereen native conceded just one goal, in that opening game against Monaghan. The only other keeper to keep a clean sheet was O’Halloran against Mayo, with eight goals allowed in the three games against Donegal, Roscommon and Dublin.
‘We have four good goalies and there’s a big decision to be made there, they are all in the reckoning,’ Healy said after the Down win.
‘We will cut it to three but they’ve all got game time, which was one of the key objectives of the league. There’s nine new players in from last year, and we need them to get game time.’
At that stage, the expectation would have been that either O’Connell or Martin would add to their solitary starts. Price, as the youngest member of the quartet, would have been seen as having time on his side, with the experience gained to be put to future use.
Instead, further faith was shown in him, with his kickout accuracy particularly impressing the management.
Since Alan Quirke took over from Kevin O’Dwyer – another O’Donovan Rossa man – at the beginning of 2006, only the Valley Rovers man Patrick O’Shea (three games in 2007 when Quirke was injured) and Ken O’Halloran played in goal in championship clashes.
O’Halloran played in 2013 and, while Quirke returned after that year’s Munster final, he retired following the All-Ireland quarter-final loss to Dublin.
The Bishopstown man was the undisputed number one in 2014 and ’15, but things may be a lot less clear-cut this time round.