Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s low-key announcement mark of the man

Rebels legend ends second stint in charge of senior side after four years

Cork’s Jimmy Barry-Murphy, pictured at his induction to the GAA Museum Hall of Fame, has stepped down as Cork senior hurling manager. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Cork’s Jimmy Barry-Murphy, pictured at his induction to the GAA Museum Hall of Fame, has stepped down as Cork senior hurling manager. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

The news that Jimmy Barry-Murphy was stepping down as manager of the Cork hurlers won’t have caused too many gasps of astonishment, as he clearly felt that he had taken the current group of players as far he could but it marks the likely conclusion of one of the most distinguished contributions in the history of inter-county hurling.

It was in keeping with Barry-Murphy’s low-key instincts that the announcement emerged late on Saturday night, the eve of the GAA’s biggest event of the year so far.

According to the statement on the county board website he said had thought a lot about his future since the county exited the championship last month.

“I have given a great deal of thought to Cork hurling since the defeat by Galway in the All-Ireland quarter-final, and I now feel that the time is right for me to step down as manager.

“I want to sincerely thank the players, selectors, backroom support team and County Board for all their efforts in the last four years. I also want to thank our loyal supporters who always travelled in huge numbers in tough economic times to support us. I know that Cork will continue to challenge for major honours in the years ahead. I wish everyone the very best next year and in the years to come.”

Ironically the decision comes in the week that he was inducted into the GAA Museum Hall of Fame. At that event he was non-committal about his plans, saying that he wished to enjoy the day rather than engage with questions about his future.

At his induction, there was the roll-call of honours won both as a footballer and hurler, including the six All-Ireland medals won in either game.

Iconic players don’t always graduate successfully to management but he was an example of one who did, taking the Cork minors to an All-Ireland 20 years ago with a team that included future All-Ireland winners and All Stars Dónal Óg Cusack, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín and Joe Deane.

Whereas the easier choice would have been to take that team through the under-21 championship, Barry-Murphy took over the senior team from Johnny Clifford and in four years of incremental improvement finally took the county back to the top of the game in 1999, beating Kilkenny in the final. He stepped down after his fifth year in charge following the All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Offaly.

Arguably his most striking managerial achievement came in his second term with the Cork seniors. Having taken over for the 2012 season he guided the team to three successive All-Ireland semi-finals and in 2013 to within a puck of the ball of winning the All-Ireland, as the additional time played at the end of the final allowed Clare to take the final to a replay, which Cork lost.

Although they won last year’s Munster title – a first in eight years – the team appeared to regress and this year’s defeats by Waterford in both league final and championship were disappointing whereas the 12-point elimination by Galway in this year’s quarter-final confirmed the scale of the task for whoever is appointed as his successor.

“He is a true legend and an iconic figure in Cork GAA, and we thank him most sincerely for all that he has done for our association in over 40 years.

“While we are very sorry to lose him, we have to accept his decision and wish him all the very best in the future.”

Among the names being speculated on as potential successors are former All-Ireland winning captain and RTE pundit Tomás Mulcahy and Kieran Kingston, who served as coach during Barry-Murphy’s management before stepping down last season.

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