“Not where I expected to be”
THIS IS NOT a managerial role John Cleary had considered taking on this year, but he is ready to step into his role as Cork boss for next Saturday’s Munster semi-final against Kerry.
The All Ireland-winning striker enjoyed huge success as U21 manager for the county, but it took until this season for him to get involved in the senior setup.
This initial role was that of coach, but the title of the position changed when Keith Ricken was forced to take a sabbatical for health reasons, creating a vacancy which Cleary filled on an interim basis.
“If you told me a few months ago, this is not where I expected to be. Listen, unfortunately, circumstances came into play and Keith fell ill. This was a case of the rest of the band taking over. The guys wanted to put my name forward as the face of the band, that’s how it happened.
“Luckily Keith had a huge amount of groundwork and preparation put in place, but there’s a huge difference between just being involved in a coaching role and being the face of it, even the face of it. time, and then the ultimate responsibility in that with the manager, many of the decisions that need to be made come down to one person at the top.
“Definitely it’s a completely different role. Hopefully Keith will be back in action soon and he’ll be back.
“It was kind of thrown at us all of a sudden and it was about stepping up a gear and getting through, the two League games and then the Championship comes quickly after that. I haven’t really had much time to think about it. The other thing is the other guys did the heavy lifting because that’s something I don’t think a person trying to get a full time job can practically do these days and at the time.
“The other guys came out in droves and pitched in and picked up a lot of what Keith was doing and that was a big help.”
Ricken has maintained a connection with the band since his departure.
“He doesn’t come every night, but he’s been there for a night or two. He was anxious then, when he wasn’t up to it, just to take a step back and he didn’t want to be seen as interference or something like that. But yeah, he’s around.
Cork are focused on Saturday night’s game, a game that Cleary was always sure would take place, despite the uncertainty over Páirc Uí Rinn as the venue for the game.
“Originally it was fixed here and we had a little surprise, the band did it, when it was taken from here all of a sudden. The band sort of said then, from They came out with a statement and maybe it helped that they saw the priority of other mobs who had resisted and it turned in their favor.
“Once it was decided it was kind of forgotten because we have enough problems to try and get everyone back into shape and get everyone on the pitch and prepare well.
“I think everybody wanted to play there and that was it. Certainly a lot of the guys were newer, younger guys. They needed something to hold on to and some identity, and I think maybe that was it. When that is done the game will be played on a pitch. I don’t think it will matter next Saturday night.
Since defeating Down and Offaly in their last two league games to preserve their Division Two status for next season, Cork have hit the challenge match circuit with fixtures against Clare, Tipperary and Cavan.
Injury news for the team continues to be mixed. Defensively, John Cooper has emerged as a doubt with a calf strain, while a call will be made later this week on Sean Powter’s fitness. Tadhg Corkery is once again available for selection, as are Brian Hayes and Brian Hartnett.
Sean Meehan is a long-term absentee with a hamstring problem, while experienced midfielder Ian Maguire is set to miss with a broken hand. Killian O’Hanlon, Liam O’Donovan and Conor Corbett have all returned to training, but the game seems to be happening too soon in their recovery as they have all been sidelined for some time.
“I guess you’re very guided by your medical staff there and the guys themselves want to play and they want to come in,” Cleary said.
“Sean Powter, Ian Maguire, these guys will play on one leg. They want to play against Kerry, they want to play the big games, but like the doctors keep telling us, you have to look at the bigger picture. A week or two now could mean you’ll have them for the rest of the season, whereas if they come out here the next day they could break down and that’s it.
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