Jimmy Barry-Murphy calls time on reign as Rebels' leader
Cork's ambition was to be in Croke Park in September but instead they find themselves engaged in a double search for managers after Jimmy Barry-Murphy followed Brian Cuthbert through the exit door.
The announcement on Saturday night that Barry-Murphy had ended his second stint as hurling manager was immediately followed by speculation as to who would succeed him.
Tomás Mulcahy and former selector Kieran Kingston are among the names mentioned but, in truth, it's unlikely that the county board have any formal list of candidates to consider.
They had hoped that Barry-Murphy would remain on for another year at least but he has decided to stand down five weeks after Cork suffered a big defeat by Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
"I have given a great deal of thought to Cork hurling since the defeat by Galway and I now feel that the time is right for me to step down," said Barry-Murphy.
The fact that he waited so long before making an announcement suggests that he gave serious consideration to remaining at the helm for a fifth successive season but, in the end, he decided that he had taken the squad as far as he could and that Cork would be best served by a new voice leading the dressing-room.
And so ends the inter-county involvement of one of the most celebrated names in Cork history, having first hit the headlines when winning an All-Ireland senior football medal as a 19-year-old in 1973.
A spectacularly successful dual career with club, county and province followed and he later went into management, leading the minor hurlers to an All-Ireland win before taking over as senior boss in late 1995.
Cork were unsuccessful for three seasons but hit the jackpot in 1999, winning the All-Ireland title for the first time since 1990.
Barry-Murphy resigned as manager at the end of the 2000 season.
Various outbreaks of player unrest caused turmoil in Cork throughout much of the decade and Barry-Murphy played an important role in restoring peace during the last upheaval in late 2008 to early 2009.
He joined former colleagues John Fenton and Denis Coughlan to find a new manager after a player rebellion led to the departure of Gerald McCarthy as manager.
The trio settled on Denis Walsh, who was appointed in the spring of 2009.
He continued in the role until the end of the 2011 season, after which Barry-Murphy took over.
He steered Cork to All-Ireland semi-finals in 2012 and 2014 and to the All-Ireland final in 2013, where they lost to Clare in a replay.
A first Munster title success since 2006 followed last year, raising Cork hopes that they were making real progress towards All-Ireland glory. However, they lost heavily to Tipperary in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Cork showed fresh promise when they reached the league final last May, only to be were outclassed by Waterford, who repeated the dose in the championship before Galway added to the Leeside misery.
Barry-Murphy's departure comes at a difficult time for Cork, who have made little impression at underage level for quite some time.
That has disrupted the supply lines to the county's senior squad and, in a wider context, raised questions about the structures and systems in the county.
Barry-Murphy was non-committal about his plans after the defeat by Galway - or indeed when inducted into the GAA Hall of Fame last Wednesday - but there was growing speculation in recent weeks that he would step down.
Typical of his understated approach, the announcement was made late on the Saturday night before the highest profile game of the year so far in Croke Park yesterday.