Cork star and July's hurler of the month Patrick Horgan. Seb Daly/SPORTSFILE

The search for Meyler's successor, Cork's disappointing 2019 and learning from Doug Howlett

Rebels sharpshooter Patrick Horgan covers a range of topics.

CORK STAR FORWARD Patrick Horgan didn’t watch the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals.

To be fair, he was away for the weekend but he admits he couldn’t exactly stomach it after the Rebels’ quarter-final exit. “A downer,” as he puts it best, the disappointment of 14 July and that devastating loss to Kilkenny is still etched all over his face.

Since that blow, the county have also lost their manager.

After two years in charge, John Meyler stepped down, and the hunt is on for his successor.

“Bit disappointed, yeah,” Horgan outlined yesterday when the feeling in the squad following Meyler’s departure is brought up.

“We knew his two years were up and we were wondering what was going to happen. We didn’t expect him to leave so early, just straight after the thing. He put a lot into the two years he was there, we have to thank him for that.

“He was brilliant. The same as any manager, he wanted the best for his players. A nice fella, always up for the laugh when it’s time to have a laugh but serious when needs be too.

“We just have to thank him for the two years. He put two years in to make us as good as we can be and we thank him for that.”

It’s mentioned that it’s probably particularly disappointing for Meyler, because the Wexford native really believed he could win an All-Ireland with this Cork team.

“He told us that a lot; that he really believes that we can do it, and we’re good enough to do it. It’s just unfortunate when we got onto the field — especially against Kilkenny — that we just weren’t good enough. That’s something we have to take on ourselves and get better.”

More on that after, but what about the next man in the hot seat?

There’s plenty of talk about Kieran Kingston potentially returning. But Horgan doesn’t pass too many remarks of that and other links. It’s a case of whoever comes in, comes in.

“That’s the way we’ll have to be as players,” he insists. “We just have to wait it out. It’s not up to us who brings in any manager.

“We’ll be told when there’s a manager there. We’ll probably get a text for training from a manager and that’s basically how it goes. We’ll just show up and try our hearts out for him, I suppose.”

John Meyler dejected in the final minutes of the game The search for John Meyler's successor is on. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

“I think it’s gone so professional now on all levels that there’s no one just going to get put in for no reason,” he adds, when asked if players should have some input in to who the manager is. “They’re going to be put in because they’re really strong and qualified for the job.

“We won’t have anything to do with it, like. We’ll be told who the manager is and that’ll be it. We’re good with that. We can’t be anything else.

“We just got beaten in an All-Ireland quarter-final, we didn’t play well. We just have to focus on ourselves as players and get better. We’re better than what we showed against Kilkenny, like.”

The Glen Rovers sharpshooter may have scored a remarkable 3-10 in Croke Park that day, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Cats and progress to the last four. 

He puts it down to zoning out for 15 minutes at the start of the second half.

“We played all the hurling in the first half and you look up at the scoreboard at half-time and you’re two points up or something like that.

“You’re thinking, ‘We had the ball for the whole half, how is that even possible?’ And then we just fell asleep for 15 minutes. We got back into after that but it was probably too late.

“They obviously tweaked something and it took us 15 minutes to figure it out. By the time we did, it was something like six, seven points. We got it back to three but then we missed a chance or two to keep the scoreboard going.

“We left a lot of it after us, we’re better than that.”

And that 3-10 return, it may have grabbed headlines afterwards, but it meant absolutely nothing to Horgan. Lose, and that doesn’t count basically.

“It’s like it hadn’t even happened. When you lose, everyone is so down, there’s no positive from the game. Usually the positive is you’re back Tuesday night at training talking about the game, not this time.”

Pat Horgan celebrates scoring a goal Celebrating one of those three goals against Kilkenny. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

He dismisses the notion that Cork have a Croke Park hoodoo considering their semi-final exit to Limerick last year too, and feels that “we’ve played some of our best hurling up there”.

“I think our movement and everything, it wasn’t any worse than anywhere else in the country,” Horgan added.

“It’s just a bit unlucky that it’s happening in the semi-finals and quarter-finals in Croke Park but I don’t think anyone would fear playing there. If you asked us do we want to play there every match, we’d say, ‘Yeah’.”

The year as a whole was a disappointing one. 

Horgan doesn’t hesitate in stating that. 

“I suppose it wasn’t great,” he concedes. “Like that now, we get a lot of good performances in a year; even last year or the year before.

“We seem to have no trophies — I know we won two Munsters the two previous years, but we need to get a big result in the semi-final or something just to get us going.

“It’s been disappointing this year. We just have to better. Every other team is progressing every year and we’ll just have to progress more, like. That’s basically it.”

There were some positives though, of course. And perhaps the most significant of those was the addition of All Blacks legend Doug Howlett to the backroom team.

The Kiwi came on board as high performance lead in February, and continued on as his 11-year association with Munster came to an end in May, but returned to his native New Zealand after Cork’s quarter-final exit.

“He was brilliant,” Horgan smiles. “Someone of his experience in any set-up, any time he speaks you’re all ear. He’s been there and done it on numerous occasions.

“He was basically sharing his experiences with us, and how he felt during certain situations and how he thought we were feeling coming up to games.

Doug Howlett Doug Howlett in Croke Park for that All-Ireland quarter-final. Gary Carr / INPHO Gary Carr / INPHO / INPHO

“It was brilliant working with him, just unfortunate we didn’t get another couple of weeks because he wasn’t going to go home until we were finished. I’d say he didn’t want to go home too early either.  

He added: “It had nothing to do with hurling. It was just him sharing his experience, it didn’t matter that it was rugby. Hearing what he thought of things didn’t matter to us.

“Individually we were chatting to him as well. Obviously things would just stay with you, like how he prepared for games and how we did; how we would change after hearing what he had to say. It’s only small things.”

For now, Horgan’s entire focus is with the club. He enjoyed this weekend’s All-Ireland Poc Fada competition in the Cooley Mountains but all eyes are on their championship opener against Charleville on 17 August now. 

A last word goes to the county’s U20s, as they prepare for their All-Ireland hurling final against Tipperary later this month.

Some solace for the county. The future is most definitely bright.

“They’re flying, to be fair,” Horgan nods. “They have a lot of fellas that are on our panel already but there’s a lot of fellas that are going to be coming onto it in the next year or so.

“It’s good to see that and it’d be even better now if they could just get over the line in that one. Get a trophy, get something going.”

Silverware is important no matter what level it’s at, he concludes.

“I think we just need a trophy to get going and get people excited about something.”

PwC GAA/GPA Players of the Month for July, footballer Michael Murphy (Donegal), and hurler, Patrick Horgan (Cork), were at PwC offices in Dublin today to pick up their respective awards.

The players were joined by PwC’s Ronan Finn, Uachtarán Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, John Horan, and GPA Chief Executive, Paul Flynn.

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