Counihan hails Bere Island camp as key to Sam success
In the same hotel, on the same day 12 months ago, Conor Counihan summoned his Cork players together in a room just off the main lobby and presented a stark choice for everyone involved.
Cork had just lost their second All-Ireland final to Kerry in three years, which came on top of three other recent All-Ireland semi-final losses to their great rivals.
With the ignition of their bus bound for the train station running outside in the car park of the Burlington, Counihan addressed a disappointed group of players in frank terms.
Yesterday, he recalled: "I suppose you would always be worried (after an All-Ireland final defeat).
" I called them in to a room -- some fellas were in the bar -- and I said, 'Lads, you can go one way or the other', and in fairness we've turned it around and we got our day in the sun."
Are there more days in the sun, as he put it, and will he be the one organising the deck chairs?
Counihan has come to the end of a three-year term that began as the ashes from the second Cork strike of the decade cleared -- in the wake of Teddy Holland's dismissal as football manager, having never managed to even convene a training session after his appointment.
"I don't know what guys are thinking," said the Cork boss. "I'd be saying, 'Look, take stock for the next four weeks, leave the emotions settle and make a cool, calm decision at that stage'. As for myself, I'm top of that list!"
There are concerns that Counihan (right) may elect to get out at the top.
Goalkeeper Alan Quirke admitted yesterday that the manager was a man who kept his cards close to his chest and has endured a difficult year personally after the recent death of his brother.
"He's a big family man; he buried his brother a few days ago so he has had a tough year. He has been under huge pressure from all quarters in terms of the football. He has four kids as well so he has a lot of commitments.
"Nobody can guess what's going on in that man's head," said Quirke.
Counihan is satisfied that he has won a championship as a manager that was far more competitive that those he won as a player.
"No doubt about that," he said. "I've remarked to people in the past that going back to the early 80s you had Kerry and Dublin dominance, but there were only two teams really in it and you came onto Tyrone, then Cork and Meath.
"The last number of years have seen different champions year in, year out. It's a very difficult championship now to retain.
"As I said, there was ourselves and Meath around in those times, not too many more, whereas now any one of 10 teams could come through.
"If you stood here in 1990 and told me it would be 20 years before we'd win an All-Ireland again I would have said, 'You're mad', but it's only as good as you make it."
One of the key components of Cork's preparations this season was an Easter weekend trip to the military camp on Bere Island in the mouth of Bantry Bay, where, under the supervision of army officers, they endured their own form of purgatory.
The squad carried each other on stretchers over long distances, hawked weighted rucksacks around the island and climbed the highest peaks the picturesque landscape had to offer over two days of relative torture.
"They'll be running camps there now every week, so they will!" reflected Counihan.
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