ALL BLACKS LEGEND Doug Howlett will remain part of the Cork hurling backroom team for the rest of the championship despite departing his position with Munster Rugby.
It was announced yesterday that Howlett was finishing up as the province’s head of commercial and marketing, ending an 11-year association with Munster.
He intends on returning to New Zealand in the autumn and Cork boss John Meyler confirmed that Howlett will remain in his high-performance role with the Rebels for the rest of their season.
“The guy is a legend,” said Meyler. “He had a calmness about him, he’s humble. He’s been there with the All Blacks and he’s bringing that to us. He’s contributed enormously to the team meetings, to the players, to the overall sense of performance.
“He’s a very humble guy, that’s what I would say about him. He talks about the performance and he gives us a sense of calmness. He spoke the last day about ourselves and repeating the performance, trying to get the culture of what the All Blacks do.
Cork’s John Meyler is pictured at Centra’s launch of the GAA All Ireland Hurling Championship.
Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
“They’re always looking for more, they’re looking for a better level of performance even if they win matches and it’s maintaining that. He’s contributed enormously and he’ll be still with us.”
Former director of the Irish Institute of Sport Gary Keegan was involved with Cork in a similar position in 2017 and 2018 but left at the end of last year. Meyler opted to bring New Zealand’s record try-scorer on board in his place and was full of praise for his impact on the players.
“He’s fantastic around the place but he’s calm, he’s humble, he talks to all the players individually and collectively,” said the Cork boss.
“He is experienced and I would imagine that if you played South Africa in Eden Park or played those matches against France in Paris as an All Black, you would understand about performance.
“He spoke to them about the Haka, what the Haka means, what it means to a team and your own culture, your own identity. He brings all of that to the table.
“As a management team, you’re trying to build a culture, you’re trying to build an environment. You’re building the culture within the team and the management but you’re trying then to provide the environment in which that culture will develop and flourish.
“The training, the administration, the medical, the support, all of those have to be right so we’re creating that environment in which the players will develop and flourish. Then it’s driving that performance culture within the set-up which is critical.”
Cork’s win over Limerick on Sunday propelled them back into the hunt to advance from Munster. After losing in the opening round to Tipperary, the Rebels looked a different animal against the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Graeme Mulcahy shoots under pressure from Mark Ellis.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Mark Ellis’s performance from centre-back was notable, considering he didn’t even make the matchday squad against Tipperary a week earlier.
After taking in the round 1 game from the in Pairc Ui Chaoimh stands, Ellis lined out with his club Millstreet in the Cork football league earlier that day.
“There’s a squad of 37 players there. Mark had an operation a few months ago, he had been struggling with injury last year so that needed to be looked at, his injury, to get him right and back up to fitness.
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“If you know Mark Ellis he’s a super fit guy, really keeps himself in shape and in condition. He wasn’t really ready to go for the Tipperary match but then looking at the Tipperary match and at the defence, he was an option. So he put his hand up and he gave that performance.
“But everybody within the 37 must be ready to give a performance, must be ready to step up. Certainly, Ellis played well, as well as Aidan Walsh who had a very successful league campaign and he stepped up. As a manager, that’s what you want.”
Colm Spillane is in contention to feature against Waterford after completing 30 minutes of a league game for Castlelyons at the weekend.
A calf strain forced Conor Lehane off after six minutes on Sunday, but Meyler is hopeful he’ll be recovered for the third round.
“The medical team will assess that. Calf injuries are problematic, they’re going to take time. It’s up to the medical team really to get him back and get him ready for selection for two weeks’ time. I just hope he is because he’s a fantastic hurler.”
Cork’s Patrick Horgan celebrates scoring his side’s goal on Sunday.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
While Patrick Horgan missed a couple of scoreable frees against the Treaty, he stood tallest when Cork needed him most and fired in a superb second-half goal, finishing with 1-9.
“He’s our marquee player just as Joe Canning is for Galway or TJ Reid is for Kilkenny,” Meyler said of the Glen Rovers ace.
“They’re three of the best forwards without a shadow of a doubt. Hoggy has proved that for Cork over the last ten years. It’s just unfortunate that he doesn’t have an All-Ireland medal, and we need to rectify that for him.
“His contribution to Cork hurling over the last ten years has been incredible. The scores he got last Sunday, the goal he took really, really drove us on.
“Hoggy deserves great credit and great praise for what he has done for Cork hurling over the last ten years. He’s always first at training, he’s always practising.
“He leads by example. It’s no wonder he’s a superb talent. He deserves the height of respect, the height of praise for what he’s done.”
Over the course of this championship, Centra will seek to get beneath the helmet of their GAA ambassadors who are some of Ireland’s best-known hurlers and their support teams to unearth what it is that not only drives their passion for the sport, but what it means to them to represent their communities on hurling’s biggest stage.
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