All-Ireland winner John Hayes concerned Cork football is 'at a seriously low ebb'

By Peter McNamara

Prior to the Cork SFC semi-finals last Sunday, I caught up with Carbery Rangers’ John Hayes to talk all things football.

As one of those that got their day in the Sam Maguire sun in 2010, his opinion certainly counts when the topic of the Cork football scene is dissected.

Hayes, unfortunately, is concerned about the present standard of the game in the county and how it is reflected via the senior inter-county side.

I put it to him that it may benefit Cork, at the highest level, if more of those that competed in the latter stages of the Cork SFC, were given more time in the senior inter-county squad, to prove their potential worth.

Basically, that in-form players performing eye-catchingly in the Cork SFC, even if they have not been included in the senior inter-county panel previously, should be given a crack of the whip throughout the Allianz NFL next term.

Carbery Rangers' John Hayes shoots for a score against Clonakilty in the 2018 Cork SFC quarter-final. Pic: Larry Cummins.

However, Hayes is not convinced the standard on Leeside is as good as it was in previous years anyway, regardless of who is selected for the Cork squad.

“That’s a difficult one,” Hayes says, “I remember I was involved with Cork when Ross(carbery) were junior and intermediate so I wouldn’t belittle any of the players from the lower grades.

“The management will select the best players for the best jobs.

“Unfortunately, though, we’re at a low ebb, a seriously low ebb in terms of Cork football.

“And I know there was a couple of guys involved with Ross that were asked to get involved with Cork. They maybe give it a shot for a little while but don’t stay around to stay involved for different reasons.

“It’s always something people throw out, that the management are picking the wrong players, they should do better, this and that.

“Now, there probably is a couple of examples of players across the county that could improve the situation.

“But the fact of the matter is, I just don’t think the standard, at the moment, in Cork, is as high as it should be."

“We need to look at our own structures and how we are struggling to bring players through.”

Hayes believes playing for Cork, presently, is not the most attractive of propositions, which is an unfortunate place for the game to be at in the Rebel County.

He said: “We have to make it more attractive for guys to want to play Gaelic football, in the county, and want to play Gaelic football for Cork.

“It seems there is so much negativity around the game, negativity around Cork football, the state of Gaelic football, everything.

“It’s not making it attractive for younger guys coming through, and young guys growing up to aspire to be Cork footballers,” he stressed.

However, Hayes does take encouragement from the formation of a sub-committee, by the county board, to tackle these ills.

Cork's Paul Kerrigan and John Hayes (right) celebrate winning the All-Ireland SFC title in 2010 at Croke Park. Pic: Paul Mohan.

“The review committee with Conor Counihan, Brian Cuthbert and Graham Canty is there now, and those are good guys, good Cork football guys as well.

“Everyone really needs to get involved with trying to push Cork football forward, though.

“Even my own club, the team at home, made a few submissions to that committee to try and encourage things along. And that’s all positive.

“One of the proposals we put in was along the lines of implementing a summer league, played all the way through the summer which has some bearing on your seeding for the championship, without obviously knocking you out of the championship.

“I wouldn’t have a problem then with having a straight knockout championship starting at the end of August or the start of September, as long as the league was fixed and played throughout each summer,” he suggested.

Hayes clearly loves Cork football. Speaking to him at length, you can sense his grá for the code in the county.

And there are many more like him. With that in mind, and the fact Tracey Kennedy and the county board have been refreshingly proactive in truly beginning to work through the problems the game faces on Leeside, Cork football should, in theory at least, start to improve and become that attractive proposition Hayes talks about, again.

Quotes from Alan Cadogan reiterated how tough it must be for players to return from long-term injuries. The levels of dedication from people like Cadogan are extraordinary.

Alan Cadogan scoring a goal in the Munster Hurling Senior Championship Final against Clare at Semple Stadium. Pic: Sportsfile

Cadogan revealed: “I could sum it up for you in two contrasting experiences. In 2017, I was the man-of-the-match in the Munster final, a great day and a great experience, but this year I took off with my parents straight down the road after the game and while the rest of the lads were out celebrating I was down in the gym rehabbing my knee.

“Those are the small things that would stick with you. Anyone who gets an injury will tell you about rehab that there are two choices. You can avoid the rehab, and you won’t come back fitter and stronger, or you can do it.

“It’s lonely, it’s tedious, the programme I was on was tedious enough but I knew I had to put the work in. I’m lucky as a teacher, I had the time to give to it, but however lonely it is, you have to give it the time if you want to get back.”

It might have been “tedious”, among other frustrating things, but Cadogan’s hard work will be of an incalculable benefit to Cork.

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