Collins sets realistic top-eight target for Rebel footballers
Mark Collins has set the realistic target of a return to Division 1 of the Allianz Football League and a place among the 'super eight' teams next July as the immediate target for the Cork footballers as they seek to build on a relatively positive end to 2017.
The Rebels took Mayo to extra-time in an absorbing fourth-round qualifier and despite Peadar Healy's abrupt departure as manager, Collins hopes the performance can help them to turn the corner.
The Castlehaven man feels it's over "over-exaggerated" to suggest that Cork's football squad is under-resourced in any way and suggests they are just one big result away from finding their groove again.
"With the talent shown at underage, the minimum should be top eight, super eight should be the aim. There is a top-class stadium and if you could get a couple of home games down there you could really look forward to it," he said.
"I think we showed in 2017 that there is plenty potential there. On our given day we're able to put it up to most teams. We've done it with Kerry a few years ago, Mayo last year. Potential is there but it's about putting it together and getting that consistency really."
Collins said it was a practical measure to make Fermoy their training base where they converted a warehouse into a gym, something that drew criticism of the resourcing of the footballers early last year.
For the new season they expect to move back to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
"There is this perception around the place that we're not looked after but I've been there five or six years now and we couldn't ask for any more, it's top-class. Everything we asked for, we're getting. It's down to the players at this stage to perform. We've been talking about it long enough, we've yet to make that step.
"It's over-exaggerated, to be honest. What happened was the year before there was bad weather and we were chopping and changing with facilities. We were in one place one night and another place another night.
"We had a couple of lads in Dublin, Billy Sheehan, who was coaching us, was based in Dublin so Fermoy seemed like the perfect base. The only problem was there was no gym so the idea behind it was they rented out a warehouse. There were stories that we were paying to get it, that never happened," he pointed out.
Collins is still hopeful that his Castlehaven clubmate and housemate, Brian Hurley, can rescue his career after twice tearing a hamstring off the bone, an injury that potentially ends a sports career when it happens once.
"He's a massive loss. I know only too well as he's my clubmate. An inside forward of his quality, they are not easy to come by," said Collins.
"We've been pretty unlucky, we've had a few of those kind of players, Colm O'Neill and Brian, and they have picked up serious injuries. It has hampered our progress a bit. You can't beat inside forwards."
Collins remains confident that one big championship win can help them turn the corner after a poor series of championship results.
"There has been a big change over since 2010. We had a lot of success in Munster U-21 Championships and people thought it would automatically generate success at senior level. As we found out, it's not easily done.
"We've had a few bad years and we have yet to get that big win. A couple of years ago in Killarney we were close enough against Kerry and against Mayo this year. A big win might drive us on, there's a bit of hope.
"The way some of the younger lads played against Mayo, Ian Maguire and Sean Powter were outstanding. We have to build around them now and hope they drive us on, to get that step."