Sunday 4 December 2016

John Mullane: Donal Óg and his fellow 'strikers' played their own role in the demise of Cork hurling

John Mullane

Published 28/07/2015 | 02:30

Ronan Curran, John Gardiner, Kieran Murphy, Sarsfields, Wayne Sherlock, Sean Og O hAilpin and Donal Og Cusack after defeat to Kilkenny in 2006
Ronan Curran, John Gardiner, Kieran Murphy, Sarsfields, Wayne Sherlock, Sean Og O hAilpin and Donal Og Cusack after defeat to Kilkenny in 2006

Donal Óg Cusack is a top class hurling analyst. I'd like to make that clear right from the start.

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Regular readers of this column will know that I hold him and his views in high regard.

When Waterford were looking for a successor for Michael Ryan as the county's senior hurling team manager in 2013, I went as far to suggest that Donal Óg was worth talking to.

But as debate rages following his comments about Frank Murphy on The Sunday Game, it's probably wise to play devil's advocate in this situation.

Cork hurling was flying in the mid-noughties, when Cork contested four successive All-Ireland finals from 2003-2006.

But are the players who were driving the team forward then, the likes of Donal Óg, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and John Gardiner, now paying a price for the strikes that followed?

John Mullane thinks men like Donal Óg Cusack, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and John Gardiner have so much knowledge of the game to offer to young players
John Mullane thinks men like Donal Óg Cusack, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and John Gardiner have so much knowledge of the game to offer to young players

These guys are at an age now where they could be getting involved with development and underage squads but they may be prevented from doing so because of their stringent views back then.

Those strikes had the knock-on effect of putting an awful lot of people off Cork hurling, and preventing those who were at the heart of them from getting involved in managerial and advisory roles.

That's a shame because men like Donal Óg, Seán Óg and Gardiner have so much to offer in terms of passing on their knowledge of the game and instilling the winning mentality they possessed into the minds of young players.

I must admit that I was a little taken aback by Donal Óg's comments. The nature of them isn't something that you become accustomed to from a hurling analyst on The Sunday Game.

They were Joe Brolly-esque in their delivery but in fairness to Donal Óg, he wasn't sitting on the fence. He went at it and it was proper punditry.

With the benefit of hindsight, he might reflect and think that he went in a bit hard with the 'stooges' line but the statistics that he presented didn't make for pretty reading from a Cork hurling perspective.

There's no doubt that Cork hurling has reached a crossroads and maybe it needed somebody of his stature to speak out like this.

I just wonder if his remarks will be swept under the carpet. 'Ah, Donal Óg, he's at it again' but maybe there's not enough people expressing public concern about the current state of Cork hurling. Perhaps he sees himself fighting a lone battle against the Cork county board.

I'd also point out that Cork aren't too far away and have been quite unlucky in all grades in recent years.

In 2010, a brilliant Tipperary U-21 team needed a late Seamus Hennessy 20m free to salvage extra-time against Cork and in 2013, they brought a Waterford team that finished the year as All-Ireland champions to extra-time.

They weren't too far away against Limerick in the minor grade last year at the Gaelic Grounds and the injury to Shane Kingston cost their minor team this summer. Remember too that Cork narrowly lost a classic 2011 Munster U-21 final against Limerick after extra-time and by all accounts there is a serious U-16 team coming through and the indications are that they will be strong at minor level in 2016.

It's also a fact of GAA life that the top counties, no matter how strong they are, go through lean times.

Look at the Kerry footballers in the 1990s, Kilkenny's hurlers in the late 80s, Dublin footballers for a spell, Cork hurlers now. It's a cycle and Cork are not immune to this.

But lean times are not what Cork fans have become accustomed to. It's almost ten years since they won the All-Ireland senior hurling title. One factor is sticking out like a sore thumb and that's the schools system in Cork. They used to have such a pick from successful Harty Cup teams but that's dried up in recent times. It's something that must be addressed if Cork are to improve into the future.

Read more: Eugene McGee: Desperate times call for desperate measures - it's time for Cork to look outside county

Read more: Crisis deepens for Cork hurling and football

How the hurlers compare to main rivals since 2000

Cork

Munster MH titles: 5 - 2000, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008

Munster U-21 titles: 2 - 2005, 2007

Munster SH titles: 5 - 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2014

All-Ireland MH titles: 1 - 2001

All-Ireland U-21 titles: 0

All-Ireland SH titles: 2 - 2004, 2005

Tipperary

Munster MH titles: 6 - 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2012, 2015

Munster U-21 titles: 5 - 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010

Munster SH titles: 6 - 2001, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015

All-Ireland MH titles: 3 - 2006, 2007, 2012.

All-Ireland U-21 titles: 1 - 2010

All-Ireland SH titles: 2 - 2001, 2010

Irish Independent

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