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Cathal Noonan/INPHO Cork forward Colm O'Neill.
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'It won't be an easy task for whoever is appointed. It's one hell of a job.'
The role of Cork manager is like a full-time job, says Colm O’Neill.

AT THE BEGINNING of the year, playing in an All-Ireland semi-final would have been Colm O’Neill’s plan for this coming weekend.

Instead, however, the Cork forward is on club duty with Ballyclough, but he’ll still be keeping a close eye on Sunday’s game between Kerry and Tyrone at Croke Park.

“At this time of year when you’re not involved, it can be tough,” O’Neill admits. “I suppose I’m lucky that I’m still involved with my club. We have a North Cork junior final tomorrow night so my focus this week has been geared towards that.”

Cork came agonisingly close to beating Kerry to the Munster title in the summer. The Kingdom were assisted by referee Pádraig Hughes’ controversial decision to award a penalty to James O’Donoghue, who converted to earn the All-Ireland champions a replay. At the second time of asking, in torrential rain in Killarney, Kerry got the job done.

In the aftermath of manager Brian Cuthbert’s recent departure, a bizarre Cork County Board statement apportioned blame for the Rebels’ subsequent championship exit to the weather, the referee and fixture scheduling.

But O’Neill offers none of those excuses for Cork’s disappointing championship campaign, which eventually ended with a defeat to Kildare in the All-Ireland qualifiers. The players were unaware that such a statement was being released. They pointed the finger of blame at themselves.

“I’m not really sure how the statement came about but from my point of view we wouldn’t be accepting that Pádraig [Hughes] was the reason we lost or because the weather wasn’t great. We have to look closer to home and at ourselves,” O’Neill explains.

“In the first game against Kerry I had a chance with a 45 to put two points between the teams, and it dropped short. Then Kerry went straight down the field and got a point to level it.

“Everyone probably agrees that it wasn’t a penalty but there was still 20 minutes to go at that stage and the game was there for the taking if we wanted it. In the replay we were beaten by a better team so we have no excuses.”

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Cork are now on the hunt for a new senior football manager, following Cuthbert’s decision not to seek another year in the role. It was a disappointing way for the Bishopstown man to bring his two-year stint to an end, O’Neill says.

“Huge disappointment. Not only for ourselves but for Brian. We were all disappointed with how things finished. We were disappointed to see Brian go. He came in for a lot of unfair criticism, given the amount of time and effort that he did put in.

“As a panel, we let ourselves down first of all but we probably let Brian and the management team down as well. We have nothing but praise for Brian and we wish him well for the future.”

Earlier this week, the Cork County Board announced that a committee — including former All-Ireland winners John Coleman, John O’Driscoll and Nicholas Murphy — has been tasked with finding the Leesiders’ next bainisteoir.

O’Neill: “There’ll probably be four or five candidates proposed so it’s up to the committee to pick the best man for the job. I’d say the candidates will probably be forwarded in the next week or so, so it should be put to bed fairly soon and we’ll have a new manager in place.

“From the players’ point of view, all we can do is give that manager 100% support, just like we did with Brian [Cuthbert]. The lads on the committee, they’re intelligent lads and they’ll probably know the best people around the county that would likely be the right person for the job.

Brian Cuthbert with Colm OÕNeill James Crombie / INPHO Brian Cuthbert and Colm O'Neill. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

“It won’t be an easy task for whoever is appointed. It’s one hell of a job. You’d nearly want to have no other job apart from being an inter-county manager. I know there’s been a lot of focus on the amount of time and effort they put in. The players, we don’t decide who gets the job, but we’ll give the committee their full support with their selection.”

When asked for his views on Cork potentially breaking with tradition by bringing in a manager from outside the county, O’Neill said: “I haven’t spoken to many of the players about it but I don’t think there’s ever been an outside manager in Cork. Is it an option, something they’re looking at? I’m not 100% sure, but I wouldn’t have any objections.

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“It’s about getting the right man for the job, whoever that may be, but historically they haven’t gone outside the county. I would be surprised at this stage if they did.”

As for Sunday’s game between Kerry and Tyrone, O’Neill expects it to end with the neighbours to the west looking ahead to another September date at Croke Park.

“I’m leaning towards Kerry. Tyrone had a fantastic win over Monaghan but I think they’ll probably play a similar type of game to what Donegal played last year in the final. Obviously Kerry got over the line there and I think they’ll be well equipped to deal with that kind of defensive structure again.

“Kerry will have learned a lot from watching Tyrone’s game against Monaghan. They’ll have studied that and seen the mistakes that Monaghan were punished for. Having watched the game myself, I thought Monaghan attacked in numbers and left themselves open at the back when they got turned over.

“Kerry will probably focus on that; they’ll make sure to have six or seven players at the back at all times, not over-committing in attack. In that sense I’d be tipping Kerry.”

O’Neill has crossed paths with Kerry in the championship on many occasions — including twice this season — over the course of his seven-year senior inter-county career. And there’s only one piece of advice he’d give to Tyrone this weekend.

“If you get a chance, take it. That’s something we probably didn’t do.”

AIB are proud to be backing club and county. Ballyclough are official suppliers of Colm O’Neill to Cork GAA. For exclusive content and to see why AIB back club and county, check out @AIB_GAA and

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