AFTER Cork’s recent win over Derry made it five wins from five in Division 3 of the Allianz FL, manager Ronan McCarthy summed up the impact of Seán Powter on the Rebels.
Still only 22, the Douglas man was a young footballer of the year nominee in 2017 but has missed most of the last two years after a number of injury setbacks. However, approaching full fitness, he has given Cork an extra dimension as they have surged towards promotion.
Powter has been used as a half-back who operates as a seventh forward when Cork face sweeper systems and his influence hasn’t been lost on clubmate McCarthy.
‘I actually honestly think you could play him anywhere,’ he said.
‘We’ve played him centre-forward before, he’s so dynamic and he’s a line-breaker. It doesn’t matter if it’s a packed defence, he punches holes in it.
‘He has such power and even in the first half, some of his tackling was excellent as well. He’s a top-class inter-county player who we’ve had to do without for the last two years and he ain’t there yet, that’s the frightening thing about it.
‘We’ve had to manage him properly but it’s brilliant to have him back.’
As a coach in the schools in the Douglas area, Eddie Murphy was responsible for many of Powter’s earliest steps. He reckons Cork could do with having ‘three or four’ Powters now, to fill various roles on the pitch, but as a young pupil in St Columba’s, he was ‘totally raw, like a fish out of water’.
‘It was a new game, he probably didn’t know too much about it,’ Murphy says, ‘but in a short space of time, he had it all.
‘He had great hand-to-eye co-ordination and actually nearly took to hurling better than to football. From a footballing point of view, he wanted it more, it was always going to be his game.
‘I would finish a session and Seán would want to stay on for another ten minutes and I’d tell him that, if he was going to do that, to play off his left foot and he would.
‘You say that to a young lad in the current age and they wouldn’t do that but that was the way he was.’
Even allowing for that drive, having the wherewithal to bounce back from injuries is not easy. That’s something Brian Hurley has shown and perhaps it’s no coincidence that Powter has West Cork blood, through his mother.
Cork goalkeeper Micheál Martin feels that the rest of the panel are inspired by such feats of recovery.
‘What I would say is that we are all aware of what the guys who have suffered bad injuries have gone through to get back on the pitch,’ he says.
‘Not just Powter, but three or four guys who have had to do one or two years of pure rehab.
‘When you see their attitude, there’s no excuse not to show up in a positive mood for training given what they’ve put in.’
Murphy saw that dedication at close quarters.
‘I would have a lot of dealings with Seán in my summer camps, he’s my go-to guys,’ he says.
‘He’s so good with the kids and they respond. Even when he was out injured, he was coming to the camps and his commitment was the same as it would be for anything else. He gives himself a chance.
‘We were so sorry for him with the injury he had, especially as his legs are tree-trunks, but he kept coming back, he always had a positive outlook.
‘A lot of guys would say, “Leave it alone, I’m trying to get back,” or whatever, but he never let me down. He always knew he was going to get back there, because of his temperament.
‘He’ll work away. He has a great attitude and that’s half the battle, which you realise as you get older.
‘We in Douglas have so much talent, I’ve seen them all, but for some reason the final hurdle isn’t there for a lot of them but it is for someone like Seán.’
Cork’s longest-serving player Paul Kerrigan points to his versatility and uniqueness.
‘He’s a player that could play anywhere but I think the half-back line is his best position,’ he says.
‘He offers something different to any other player we have – a pacey, direct scoring threat that opposition teams need to seriously keep an eye on.
‘He’s a proven player at this level, which is a huge bonus for the team.’
And back to Murphy and his wish for three or four Powters – with just one to work with, where would he put him?
‘Growing up, he was always a defender,’ he says.
‘It’s a lot easier to play facing the ball, rather than having to turn and try to run after a forward that’s a speed-merchant. He was able to transition to both, because he had such speed.
‘When I was a selector with the senior team under Tony Leen and we discussed playing him as a forward. We put him at centre-forward in a senior league game and he did brilliantly.
‘He has shown that he’s as effective as a back or a forward. For me, what Cork are doing now is the best way to use him, primarily defending but able to act as an extra forward against a defensive team.
‘He’s a guy that learns quickly. You want to do something revolving around three or four players in the team, he’s always going to be in that core.’