Thursday 18 July 2019

Billy Keane: 'Only a strong dose of Corkness will sort Rebel football mess'

'Cork football’s biggest problem is Cork hurling. Quite simply, the footballers do not feel loved.' Stock photo: Sportsfile
'Cork football’s biggest problem is Cork hurling. Quite simply, the footballers do not feel loved.' Stock photo: Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy defined Corkness as "that air of confidence just on the right side of arrogance - an unparalleled pride and our insatiable desire for Cork to be the best at absolutely everything."

Funnily enough, Tracey's eloquent definition could just as easily apply to Kerry.

I played club football in Cork for UCC. We were great pals with the Cork lads. When we meet, decades are reduced to a short while ago. Cork friends are friends forever.

Corkness is about backing each other up, loyalty to the red-flag values of never giving up, fighting not only your corner but the county's corner too, with a few laughs thrown in and loads of slagging. The Cork boys would always have your back and Cork hate getting bate.

I had the honour of helping the greatest Cork football man to write his autobiography. Billy Morgan is mad for Cork and sometimes mad at Cork.

Morgan tells of a day when he was getting dog's abuse from a so-called supporter who was just behind his goal on the terrace. His corner-back slipped quietly up into the terrace and poleaxed the abusive supporter. I think this aspect of never letting a wrong go un-righted goes back to the Troubles when Cork took on an empire and won handy enough.

Terrible All it is that is needed is to bring out the Corkness in Cork football. Easier said than done. Cork football is in a terrible mess.

There are only two selectors in situ with manager Ronan McCarthy at the moment. Very few want to get involved with managing a senior team. This problem applies all over Ireland and not just in Cork.

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I spoke to three former players who I thought would be a perfect fit for Kerry management positions.

All three love Kerry. None of the three could afford to take the job. None of the three were self-employed. There is no pay in Kerry.

The GAA will have to change the rule whereby managers cannot be paid. I would suggest a part payment. Peter Keane is self- employed but, to be fair, his CV entitled him to a shot at managing Kerry.

If you haven't got a bit of money behind you, or are on a secret payment from a benefactor outside the county board, well then that's it as regards managing a top county.

Cork have an excellent five-year strategy with plans to build from the underage set-up. But Cork's five-year plan is 10 behind Tyrone, Kerry and Dublin. There is no such thing as a honeymoon in football. The positive is that things couldn't get much worse.

I met with Christy Kearney, the former Cork player and selector, after one of the recent thrashings by Kerry. Christy was some player and he won an All-Ireland senior club football championship for Castle Island Desmonds, but there is no man with more Corkness in him.

"The worst part is ye are not even slagging us now," he said. There's no fun in beating Cork any more and Cork hates pity.

Cork is a huge county with a massive player base. This is both a strength and a disadvantage There is a lot of ground to be covered. I would suggest Cork appoint Billy Morgan as chief scout. There is no better man at spotting uncut diamonds.

But Cork football's biggest problem is Cork hurling. Quite simply, the footballers do not feel loved. They are regularly abused on social media. That's not Corkness now, is it?

The main problem is Cork is a hurling county. Every time we beat Cork some lad will always come out with "I'm a small-ball man myself", or "football is a game for lads who can't play hurling." The day of the dual player is gone and forever. The good footballers are also good hurlers. Some lads are just good at every sport.

There is a huge opportunity on the way though. Ronan O'Gara, like most parents, worries about the risk of serious injury in rugby. His boy plays soccer. I believe parents will look to football rather than hurling because it's easier to learn for non-hurling families.

Dr Con's surname is Murphy but he is known as no more than Dr Con. The good doctor is the epitome of decency. Dr Con will be honoured at a big dinner in City Hall on Saturday next. He has been the doctor to the Cork hurling and football teams for well over 40 years.

Dr Con would never see you stuck. Money was never his god and many is the UCC student he helped out, including yours truly.

Dr Con's heart beats for Cork. But he has enough heart left for the rest of us too. There's a generosity there and an empathy. I spoke to him last night. The dinner is sold-out. Dr Con is mortified because he is so loved and respected.

His kindness crossed the border too. His medicine travels beyond county frontiers. Our friend is an honorary Kerry man but Dr Con is the King of Corkness, and as long as the Cons and his like roam the Rebel County, there will always be a Cork.

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