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Dublin: 3 °C Sunday 24 March, 2019

Kingston leaves Cork hurling in positive place but next appointment will be crucial after 2017 progress

Cork are on the hunt for a new manager after a Munster title winning season.

Kieran Kingston celebrates Cork's Munster final win.
Kieran Kingston celebrates Cork's Munster final win.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

HAVING FILLED THEIR football manager vacancy, Cork GAA chiefs are now tasked with finding a new hurling boss after news drifted through of Kieran Kingston’s departure over the weekend.

It’s a jolt for Cork hurling after Kingston oversaw a season of huge progression in 2017.

Consider the turbulent first campaign Kingston oversaw when Cork narrowly avoided league relegation, were soundly beaten by Tipperary in Munster and lost to Wexford for the first time in the championship in six decades.

That qualifier exit on an overcast night in Thurles occurred on 9 July 2016 but exactly a year later, Kingston was at the helm as a remarkable revival was completed when Cork triumphed on Munster hurling final day.

Their hopes of prolonging a stirring season were halted at the All-Ireland semi-final stage by Waterford but the 11-point loss masked the narrative of a game where Cork were well in contention before being over-run in defence late on after they were reduced to 14 men.

The clear wish of players, board officials and supporters was for Kingston to return in 2018 to build on the achievements this year.

But he has spent five seasons since 2012 involved in some capacity with the Cork senior hurling squad and after such a huge investment of time, commitments off the pitch would have swayed his thinking in opting to call a halt.

The spotlight now falls on who will be selected to guide Cork in 2018. It’s almost certain that only local candidates will come into the frame as it’s hard to see Cork breaking with tradition to recruit a successor from outside.

There are strong candidates within the management team assembled around Kingston this season. Pat Ryan, Diarmuid O’Sullivan and John Meyler all have the benefit of having the inside track on the current squad.

pjimage Pat Ryan, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and John Meyler have all been involved with Cork this year. Source: INPHO

Outside of that Ryan has been highly successful in his club work with Sarsfields. O’Sullivan commands respect as an iconic name in the county along with an involvement in underage development squads.

Meyler has had stints on the local club circuit along with guiding Cork to July’s Munster U21 final, where they only fell two points short to a star-studded Limerick side that went on to lift the All-Ireland title.

A member of that trio would seem to best placed as they offer continuity but outside of the group involved this season, Pat Mulcahy, Ger Cunningham or Donal Óg Cusack could possibly come into the frame.

It will be a crucial appointment as 2017 suggests they are good raw materials to work with. Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon and Colm Spillane all finished the year as All-Star nominees, while fellow debutants Shane Kingston, Luke Meade and Michael Cahalane demonstrated promise as well.

Players like Damien Cahalane and Conor Lehane became major assets in different sectors of the pitch for Cork while Anthony Nash and Patrick Horgan remain key leaders.

Away from the flagship team, Cork’s underage sides in 2017 all made forward strides.

Kingston’s reign has provided plenty to build on and he always stressed that he wanted to leave Cork hurling in a better place.

Whoever replaces him will be thankful for the health of the Cork setup he is inheriting.

The trick will be to take the side forward again.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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