Sunday 17 December 2017

Departing Counihan sees a chink in Dublin armour

Cork manager Conor Counihan and Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE
Cork manager Conor Counihan and Dublin manager Jim Gavin. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/SPORTSFILE

BEATEN, resigned but unfailingly engaging, Conor Counihan weighed up the Dublin/Kerry All-Ireland semi-final and half suggested, perhaps, that the hype over his team's conquerors wasn't to be strictly adhered to. Sort of.

"I find it difficult sometimes when I read stuff in the media about 'they'll blow them away' or whatever," he said upon delivering his final post-match media briefing as Cork manager after six years in charge, a reign that has encompassed four league titles and, memorably, the 2010 All-Ireland.

"That game is about 70 minutes, and it's whoever comes in psyched on the day – a certain amount of it is about natural ability but it's also about who's up for it on the day. And it's a bounce of a ball on the day, and it's very hard to call.

"I'm surprised at times that the press can be so emphatic, but having said that, the bookies are doing it as well, though there's money involved there so I can understand that to a certain extent."

His assessment of Dublin?

"I thought they were pacy, that their movement was quite good, they got good scores, but at times they also looked vulnerable. We created a few goal opportunities, maybe half-chances, and if we'd stuck them and got closer, how would they have responded? That challenge is ahead but they're formidable."

And as to where his team had gone wrong in the game itself, Counihan was wholly honest.

"Maybe," he shrugged, "we just came up against a better team today, maybe that's the simple equation."

The now ex-Cork manager insisted that his decision to resign, despite accepting a two-year term at the end of last season, had already been made prior to the start of the year.

"When I came back I had a two-year term, but the reality is that it's challenging to keep it there, and I would have reflected, for some time, that now was the time to get a change of voice.

"There's still a good squad of players there but after six years you have to challenge yourself and ask if you're getting enough out of people, that kind of thing.



"Maybe I wasn't, that's for others to judge, but the important thing is that I step down and a fresh voice takes over, and that Cork football reaches the pinnacles again. I still think we're in a good place."

And what of the opinion that Cork, in light of all that talent, should have won more than that single All-Ireland under Counihan?

"Maybe people are entitled to that view," he offered, "but I'm not going to start arguing on my way out the door.

"One isn't enough, and two aren't enough either. Everyone would like to win more, but sport is funny and it's cruel. You might say one, but there's an awful lot would love to have one.

"The job is immense and you could always challenge yourself more. At the end of the day we are amateurs, we have full-time positions in our normal daily lives.

"You have a family as well and in terms of trying to get the balance, could I have done more? There is always more to do. There is always somebody else that has some angle or some stroke that you need to get the edge.

"Maybe I didn't dig deep enough," he concluded for the final time. "But look, on the whole, it has been a wonderful experience working with such a quality group of individuals."

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