Kingston de­par­ture leaves Rebels stranded

De­nis Hur­ley con­sid­ers the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of Kieran Kingston’s de­ci­sion not to stay on as Cork se­nior hurl­ing team man­ager and con­sid­ers the op­tions for his suc­ces­sor

The Corkman - - SPORT -

With none of the other top coun­ties chang­ing man­ager for 2018, it leaves Cork at a dis­ad­van­tage straight away

WITH a Munster cham­pi­onship hav­ing been claimed this year after such a dis­ap­point­ing 2016 cam­paign, the de­ci­sion of Kieran Kingston not ac­cept a sec­ond term does seem sur­pris­ing and dis­ap­point­ing.

Then again, with Munster set to be a five-way fight next year and with at least three Le­in­ster coun­ties ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing for All-Ireland hon­ours – what­ever the for­mat may be, to be de­cided at spe­cial Congress this week­end – it’s un­der­stand­able that he has opted to leave on a high, as there are no guar­an­tees that the heights of 2017 will be re­peated.

Com­ing into an in­ter-county job is no sim­ple task, as Kingston him­self learned just un­der two years ago, even with his ex­pe­ri­ence as coach and se­lec­tor un­der Jimmy Barry-Mur­phy in 2012, ’13 and ’14.

In fact, only twice since the turn of the mil­len­nium has the All-Ireland hurl­ing ti­tle been won a county led by a man­ager in his first year in charge. The most in­stance was 2016, when Michael Ryan guided Tipp to glory, and be­fore that it was John Allen in 2005 with Cork (the county’s last se­nior All-Ireland, lest we for­get). What both of those ap­point­ments had in com­mon was that they were in­ter­nal pro­mo­tions, with Ryan’s ac­ces­sion hav­ing been an­nounced a year be­fore it was ef­fected, to al­low for a seam­less tran­si­tion. It was sim­i­lar with Allen, in that he had learned at the right hand of Donal O’Grady in 2003 and ’04, and ob­vi­ously had an All-Ireland-win­ning side to work with. Ba­si­cally, it was just a case of keep­ing the big wheel turn­ing after it had been set in mo­tion. Of course, when Allen stepped down, the play­ers wanted Ger Cun­ning­ham to fol­low in his foot­steps, but the county board opted for Ger­ald McCarthy and that proved to be the ba­sis for the strikes of 2007 and ’08.

For Ryan, as well as as­sist­ing Ea­mon O’Shea in the 2015 cam­paign, dur­ing which Tipp came very close to reach­ing the All-Ireland, just los­ing out to Gal­way in the semi, he was able to for­mu­late what changes he would make at the helm. It meant that, while 2016 was his first year, he had more of a ground­ing than many oth­ers.

When Jimmy Barry-Mur­phy stepped down, Tom Kenny ex­pressed the hope that his re­place­ment would ap­point his own re­place­ment as part of his man­age­ment team.

“I know a lot of other coun­ties don’t have it,” he said at the time, “but we’ve seen Tip­per­ary do it now with Michael Ryan tak­ing over from Ea­monn O’Shea. In­stead of just hav­ing some­one for two or three years and then go­ing to an

out­side per­son again, it would pro­vide sta­bil­ity.

“Jimmy is gone now and, for all we know, the four se­lec­tors are too and there’s no­body re­ally paying close at­ten­tion to any county cham­pi­onship games. If Jimmy had stepped down and one of the se­lec­tors had been anointed to move into the role, they’d be in a po­si­tion to look at games, watch­ing play­ers at pre­mier in­ter­me­di­ate and in­ter­me­di­ate as well.

“Who­ever takes over, if you had some­one like Pat Mul [Mulc­ahy] or Pat Ryan, if they were in­ter­ested in tak­ing over in a few years, you’d have them as a se­lec­tor or in some role. They’d get to know the ropes – they’re good coaches any­way, so I’ve no doubt they’d be good if they got the job now – but they’d see how things worked and be able to for­mu­late their own ideas for when they take over.”

That didn’t ex­pressly hap­pen, but we could see it ef­fec­tively oc­cur­ring if John Meyler, Pat Ryan or Diar­muid O’Sul­li­van are ap­pointed.

O’Sul­li­van is prob­a­bly short of the nec­es­sary ex­pe­ri­ence re­quired, even al­low­ing for what he has learned in the last two years.

That would leave the two as the can­di­dates for con­ti­nu­ity and, to be fair, it’s no co­in­ci­dence that they are con­sid­ered the cur­rent favourites. Ryan has been in­volved in the past two years while this year was Meyler’s first as part of this set-up, with a dual role as he took charge of the county U-21 side as well.

Ide­ally, one of them would get the role and re­in­state the oth­ers from this year to al­low for the smooth con­tin­u­a­tion of the good work.

The al­ter­na­tive is some­body new com­ing in with a whole new back-room team, and the nec­es­sary bed­ding-in pe­riod re­quired as play­ers and man­age­ment fa­mil­iarise them­selves with each other – or opt to part ways.

With none of the other top coun­ties chang­ing man­ager for 2018, it leaves Cork at a dis­ad­van­tage straight away, with the like­li­hood of this year be­ing a stand-along rather than a step­ping-stone. As a re­sult, it’s a very im­por­tant de­ci­sion for the board to make, in or­der that the graph con­tin­ues its up­ward move­ment.

Kieran Kingston is em­braced by se­lec­tor Diar­muid O’Sul­li­van as they watch the fi­nal mo­ments of the Munster Fi­nal be­tween Clare and Cork at Sem­ple Sta­dium, Thurles last July

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