McCarthy: our job is to develop these talented players to be as good as they can be
Ronan McCarthy has picked up the baton and will lead Cork senior footballers into the next chapter of the county's long and illustrious history when his new side head into action in Fraher Field next weekend against a Waterford side that has caused many unforeseen problems in recent times.
Whether it was running the Rebels to a point in the 2017 football championship or beating the men in red for the first time in half a century in the McGrath Cup a couple of seasons back, Waterford have ceased being whipping boys for Cork and have to be taken seriously as another year begins.
"Of course it is difficult to know what to really expect from this weekend," McCarthy told The Corkman this week. "It is too early in the season to predict anything and the two teams will be on very different training programme. We have all seen that Waterford are a different proposition in recent times with some good displays from the county and club sides. They rattled us in the past and even though it is only pre-season we can't take them for granted."
While the feeling outside the camp has been less than positive in recent years, McCarthy is clear that external factors play no part in his or his team's preparation or mind-set heading into another season.
"I have been involved for three of the last five seasons and I can tell you we didn't spend time dwelling on the past and I won't be doing it now. Elite sport seems to bring out the extremes. If you win all is great and if you lose it is the end of the world. As a management team our job is to try to improve the squad and the team and steer a steady course. I know the 'all or nothing' is part of the environment now but we will leave the extremes to others and focus on the job at hand."
With the loss of the likes of Eoin Cadogan to hurling and Alan O'Connor to retirement there is little doubt that McCarthy is taking over at a time of transition, but the Douglas man feels this is much more of an opportunity than something to be overly pessimistic about.
"There are many of the 2010 team that still have plenty to give but some will naturally move on. That is just the way of it but it would be naive of any player to think that there are not fellows behind them chomping at the bit. Cork has some brilliant talent out there and with every player leaving there is a chance for someone else to come in and put their hand up. It is a natural cycle and it must be seen as an opportunity. We had a good pre-season and spirits are high. We will have a strong enough panel to pick from this weekend and I hope that over the next two games to be able to give every player picked the chance to play.
"There will be a balance between some older and newer faces and as a management team it is up to us to get them all to play as well as they can. The new fellas may take some time to get up to inter-county speed but it is our job to develop these talented players to be as good as they can be," McCarthy says.
Whether being Cork manager is a thankless job or not is up for debate but despite all the negativity and criticism that has been thrown at this particular team in recent years McCarthy is really looking forward to his moment in the sun.
"Of course there is a bit of excitement building now. I know it is only pre-season but the season is starting so we are looking forward to it. I love being involved, you would have to love it. If you didn't what would be the point. There will be tough days ahead and hopefully some good ones too but I am here because I want to be here and that is the bottom line."
McCarthy will get some time to mould this team - of that there is little doubt - but Cork football fans really do need to see something this season that resembles progress, otherwise it will be a long 2018 football campaign ahead.