A ‘shame’ Cleary has not managed Cork – Cahalane
To this day, the result catches the eye: Cork 2-24, Kerry 0-8 – a Munster U-21 football result from 2011 that clearly had the boroughs pointing in different directions when they finally struck.
As an example of the deception that results can offer in underage football, this final in front of 6,000 at the Páirc Uí Rinn hit the spot.
In the span of three years, nine members of that Kerry team had All Ireland medals and although they’ve been in Dublin’s slipstream most of the time since, they’ve been miles ahead of Cork, with the only obvious exception of two seasons ago. Cork football has seen a steady decline, with only the odd uplifting moment.
But on that April night 11 years ago, they were all still optimistic. They were reigning All-Ireland champions, on the brink of winning their second straight league, and their future looked bright.
John Cleary was U-21 coach after guiding Cork to the All Ireland title in 2009 and was also a member of Tony Leahy’s backroom team when they won it in 2007. He was also an advisor to then-senior manager Conor Counihan. His supply was high.
When Counihan retired in 2013, Cleary was the heir apparent and seemingly the preferred choice of players, many of whom were 2010 All-Ireland winners.
However, the job went to Brian Cuthbert instead, who indicated that an agreement with Cleary could not be reached.
To Cuthbert’s credit, after two years in charge, Cork came tantalizingly close to knocking out Kerry at Munster in 2015 but only lost after a replay when they should have won on day one and appeared in the league semi-finals and final. past years. Cleary’s name has always been linked to the vacancy for the past several years, but he has either withdrawn or shown no interest on his own terms.
Now, nine years after that initial expression of interest, he’s in charge on an interim basis following Keith Ricken’s resignation due to ill health – unusual circumstances with a team coming from a much lower base than expressed interest at the time.
For fellow Castlehaven and Cork player and brother-in-law Niall Cahalane, it remains a “complete and absolute disgrace and disgrace and loss to Cork football” that he has not been appointed at any point in the past nine years.
“It was our loss. There’s no doubt about it,” he said. “It was almost written that he was (in 2013) and I think that would have been the view of the football people in Cork. But a complete mess was made of it, and it’s been a mess ever since. The big loser was Cork Football and the players who have worn the jersey since then.
“He stalled,” Cahalane added. “After that day, the rest is history. Those of us who thought so at the time, we weren’t wrong.”
Cleary’s record against Kerry, Cork’s opponents in tomorrow’s semi-finals in Munster, both as a player and as an underage manager/coach, is quite striking.
In six years as Under-21 coach between 2008 and 2013, Cork won four Munster titles and one All-Ireland title. In Leahy’s four years with Cleary at his side from 2004 to 2007, they won all four Munster titles, a record eight in 10 years in the province.
As a player he was crucial, despite being just 20 when Cork shocked Kerry in the 1983 Munster final. Tadhg Murphy’s late goal was the dagger in Kerry’s heart on a day when Cleary went 1-6, 1-2 from the game.
When Cork regained control at Munster four years later, he was still a fervent corner striker and played his part as they won four consecutive provincial crowns, converting the last to All-Irelands in 1989 and 1990.
His coaching skills are also reflected in his leadership of the Cork Minor Ladies who won four out of five All-Ireland titles between 2015 and 2019 when he was in charge.
“In his first year there he won an All-Ireland with a group of girls who hadn’t won anything at U-16 or U-14,” said Cahalane, confirming his credentials. But he now faces a Kerry team who, according to his brother-in-law, are “of legal age”.
“It’s not the ideal time for John to be there but at the same time I still think he’s the best man for the job, although it’s a shame that wasn’t the case sooner.
“Our expectations are certainly not high. No offense to anyone. I would like to think that we will see an improvement. If he can bring that level of improvement (comparable to little ladies) to our older footballers. It would be unrealistic to think they can topple Kerry, but we can always improve. Cork bottomed out in Division 2 or thereabouts and avoided relegation to Division 3.
Cahalane recalls that Cork “was never a flag-bearer” in football, pointing to five All-Ireland titles in the last 72 years as a reflection of that.
But for now, improvement is the only goal. It’s taken a while, and the road has been rocky and winding, but finally the right man is in the right place to oversee it, even if it’s “by default” and only a temporary arrangement, says Cahalane.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/a-disgrace-cleary-hasnt-managed-cork-before-this-cahalane-41619101.html A ‘shame’ Cleary has not managed Cork – Cahalane