The sporting culture surrounding the New Zealand rugby team is not only one of winning, but one of consistency and constant improvement, and that is what Doug Howlett is instilling in the Cork hurlers, according to John Meyler.
Howlett was announced as the “high-performance lead” for Meyler’s side in February and has been a regular feature in the dugout throughout the league and championship.
Cork got their Munster campaign off to a rocky start with a seven-point loss to Tipperary in Pairc Ui Chaoimh but their response was emphatic a week later, beating the All Ireland champions by the same margin in Limerick. After the game, Howlett spoke to the team about needing to repeat the performance and the importance of consistency.
Meyler has been extremely impressed with the former Munster player so far.
“The guy is a legend. 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 spoke the last day about ourselves and repeating the performance, trying to get the culture of what the All Blacks do. 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.
“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.”
The St. Finbarr’s man is in his second full season as the Cork hurling manager, having enjoyed a relatively successful 2018.
Cork retained their Munster crown, having got through the round-robin series unbeaten, before they fell to Limerick in the All Ireland semi-final in Croke Park. The Rebels were six points up at the 60-minute mark during the game and the manner of that loss would have been very disappointing to Meyler and his backroom team.
Cork are one of the biggest powerhouses in hurling but Meyler wants to return the county to the very top. However, it is a slow process and one that requires many elements to mesh together.
“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.
“All sport is the same. There’s absolutely no difference. The culture and the environment, if you go to Man City or you go to Barcelona, the culture of the environment is exactly the same. It’s just that repetition of the performance of good teams.
“Why did Man City win the last 15 or 16 games? They didn’t lose any of them, but why did they win the 15 games? Or why did Barcelona cough up a 3-0 lead against Liverpool, when you think that with Messi, it would just be a matter of fact. Spurs did the same against Ajax. You think you’re home and dry.
“But it’s that culture, it’s that environment, it’s that level of consistency – that’s repetition. Somebody phrased it ‘muscle memory’. Tiger still has the muscle memory of hitting 100-yard pitch shots stone dead. Executing the putts like Koepka did at the weekend, now he might have come up a small bit short on the back nine, but he still was able to close it out. Like the golfers, any of those sports, it’s all about closing out. That’s critical.”
The GAA All Ireland Hurling Championship occupies a unique place in Irish Sport and the first two weeks of the Championship have reminded us why anticipation is building in communities right around Ireland on what lies in store for their county team. Centra has teamed up with Clare’s Podge Collins, Galway’s Niall Burke, Cork manager John Meyler and Dublin’s Cliodhna O’Connor, to reveal their passions on and off the pitch.