Stephen Cronin: Cork footballers heading in right direction
Rebels can end any relegation fears with a home victory over struggling Down
Cork’s Stephen Cronin tackles Kerry’s Barry John Keane during last year’s Munster senior football championship. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cork footballers have the chance to move decisively clear of relegation at the weekend when pointless Down visit Páirc Uí Rinn but it’s been a strange season for new manager Peadar Healy. The county’s campaign so far has been bookended by big wins against Connacht and Ulster champions Mayo and Monaghan but other results and performances have been subdued.
There has been concern that these mixed displays have come after a 2015 championship that swung on one match but which ended in bitterly disappointing circumstances with defeats by Kerry in the replayed Munster final and by Kildare in a completely unforeseen ambush in Thurles.
Stephen Cronin is currently getting himself back to full fitness with the under-21s, who face Kerry in the provincial final in a couple of weeks.
In his rookie senior championship last year he started in all of those matches for Cork and identifies the drawn Munster final in Killarney as the pivotal event.
Game planFionn Fitzgerald
Cronin believes that the effort put into that drawn match left the team off-balance for the replay, also in Killarney because of redevelopment work in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“We’d a very good game plan put in place for the Munster final definitely,” he says but adds about the replay: “At the time you don’t even realise it because you get so caught up in it. You think you’re going to be fine. When it came out on the pitch, we actually just had nothing left. It was a bad place to be and it showed on the pitch there in the end.”
By the end of the season manager Brian Cuthbert stepped down but Cronin believes that the downbeat conclusion to both provincial and All-Ireland campaigns misrepresented what Cuthbert had brought to the role.
“A lot of fellas would say he prepared us the best they’ve been prepared. Even when they won the All-Ireland, they said the most they were prepared was for last year’s Munster final.
He says that the players also need to raise their game.
“We’re getting all the chances we need, all the resources we need. All the training has been done. They’ve put a good win on the board now. They need to follow it up with another one, then see where it goes. The main thing is they’re building towards championship the whole time.”