GAA: Jamesie O’Connor backs Jimmy Barry-Murphy to continue as Cork manager
Last Updated: 05/09/14 2:23pm
Jamesie O’Connor has backed calls for Jimmy Barry-Murphy to continue as Cork manager for a fourth year.
Barry-Murphy’s three-year term as Rebels boss came to an end last Sunday after their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Tipperary.
Cork chairman Bob Ryan has stated that the county board want Barry-Murphy to remain as manager, but he refused to be drawn on his future after the 10-point loss to the Premier County.
Having led Cork to their first Munster title since 2006, Sky Sports expert O’Connor believes Barry-Murphy, who turns 60 this week, still has plenty to offer.
“Obviously there is huge disappointment given the non-performance of the team on Sunday, but I think they have come some distance under Barry-Murphy’s tenure,” he said.
“They’re back in Division One, came within a hair’s breadth of winning the All-Ireland last year, and won a Munster title in front of a huge Cork crowd in what was the last game at the old Páirc Úi Chaoimh.
“As he said after the Tipperary game, the nucleus of a good team is very much in place. It’s something that Jimmy himself will have to ascertain, whether he and his backroom team have the will and the appetite to go on.
“Sometimes, in the immediate aftermath of a defeat like that, it’s not the best time to be making decisions about your future. I think the Cork county board will give him time, but given the respect that the players and the Cork hurling public have for him, I’d say the consensus will be that they hope he’ll stay on.”
When Barry-Murphy won the All-Ireland in 1999 during his first stint as Cork manager, it was on the back of under-age talent pouring through to the senior side. That is no longer the case, with the county’s last All-Ireland U21 and minor titles coming in 1998 and 2001 respectively.
“He hasn’t had the same production line coming through this time and has had to work harder in scouring the county for talent,” said O’Connor. “They’ve found new players this year but that has certainly made the job a little bit different.
Obviously there is huge disappointment given the non-performance of the team on Sunday, but I think Cork have come some distance under Barry-Murphy’s tenure.
“But we’re looking at a team that could very easily have been the defending All-Ireland champions this year, and to win a Munster title, playing four matches, I think there is an element in truth in that they’ve overachieved. Whether that’s fair on the Cork players is another story but when you look back at it, I think Barry-Murphy’s done very well with the players at his disposal.”
Former Cork goalkeeper Donal Óg Cusack was critical of the Cork county board last weekend, highlighting the county’s lack of underage success in the wake of their defeat to Tipperary, but O’Connor believes the tide is turning.
“The thing about Cork is that it’s a huge county, and it’s one that’s accustomed to success,” he said. “What’s happened is that the other counties, particularly the likes of Clare, Limerick and Waterford, have looked at their underage structures and development squads. They’re reaping the benefits and getting the best of the talent that’s there.
“With Cork to an extent, it has always been a numbers game. They maybe haven’t had to work as hard and that’s what Donal Óg was referencing, that they have fallen behind.
“The stats don’t lie. Their last All-Ireland U21 title was in 1998; that’s a famine from a Cork perspective, given their success historically in that grade. I think there is a sense among former players like Donal Óg, Joe Deane and Sean Óg Ó hAilpín that Cork did take their eye off the ball.
“However, I’m seeing signs again at schools level. Middleton CBS beat my school, St Flannan’s, in the Munster U15 final last year, and Charleville CBS beat us in the final this year. There are signs that Cork are coming again, and I think the county is too big for them not to be a force year-in year-out. It is cyclical and it will turn.”
After defeating Waterford, Clare and Limerick to seal provincial success, Cork failed to scale those heights against Tipperary, and their performance reminded O’Connor of their display in their first game of this year’s championship, when they came from behind to draw with Waterford.
“I thought Tipperary would win the game, that they were more likely to get goals and that would decide it,” he said. “The margin surprised me but you have to credit to the Tipperary midfield and defence. Many felt Cork would have the edge in midfield and that it was going to be a shootout. Credit to the Tipp lads, they decided that wouldn’t be the case and their midfield really fronted up.
ALL-IRELAND SHC FINAL
Kilkenny v Tipperary
Sunday, September 7
Live on Sky Sports 3
“Tactically as well, Tipp were incredibly smart. Their puckout strategy was phenomenal and Darren Gleeson implemented it to absolute perfection. By minimising the influence of Daniel Kearney and Aidan Walsh, it took away a big platform that Cork had been building on in previous matches.
“From a Cork perspective, when so many guys underperform on the day, it’s very hard to put your finger on it. People talk about the five-week break; I don’t think Cork did anything different in the run-up to this game than if they would have done, if for example they played three weeks ago like Tipp had.
“If you look at the record of the Munster champions in recent years, the stats don’t make for impressive reading, and there’s no doubt that Tipp were able to generate some form and momentum through the qualifiers.
“But I don’t think you can use it as an excuse for Sunday. A bit like their first championship game of the summer, when they drew against Waterford, Cork just didn’t play with the required urgency and intensity, and they paid the price for it.”