Ruairí Deane is a man hell-bent on making up for lost time, that is clear from his off-field actions, particularly in the last number of months, and his performance last Sunday in Ballinacourty, suggests Peter McNamara.
The Bantry Blues man, as people that follow him on Instagram will be aware, has been keeping himself ticking over in the off-season with relentless, though evidently enjoyable, training sessions at Aclaí with former Cork strength and conditioning coach Ainle Ó Cairealláin.
As a character that has suffered more injury setbacks than is fair for any person aspiring to be a top athlete, Deane would be forgiven if he had essentially thrown his hat at attempting to reach his peak at senior inter-county level.
Cork’s Ruairí Deane in possession against Waterford last Sunday. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
However, there he was, against Waterford, showing Ronan McCarthy and his management team, as well as Leesiders present, that he means business in 2018 in terms of proving his worth to the cause.
Deane was earmarked as a potentially brilliant contributor to the squad, for what now seems like many moons ago. Yet, of course, well-documented injuries stunted his progress.
Maybe, from here on, we will begin to see the best of a wonderful talent.
Deane started at wing-forward for McCarthy’s outfit as Cork romped to a 17-point triumph over the Déise.
He did not score however, produced a monumental shift defined by an appetite for the hard yards.
Deane’s attitude will be an asset to McCarthy this season. He could be one of a number of driving forces behind a new Cork, one in which new leaders will emerge from what is a youthful panel.
Interestingly, McCarthy, while discussing players “getting up to speed”, indirectly made reference to the crucial element of wanting “fellas to do the right things when they’re on the ball”.
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy, right, and selector Sean Hayes arrive for the McGrath Cup at The Gold Coast Resort in Waterford. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leadership. And a huge factor in that is players making correct decisions in possession.
McCarthy has the playing tools to produce expansive, intelligent football. Personnel such as Luke Connolly, Sean Powter and John O’Rourke, you would expect, will be central to this theme.
In fact, by the end of the season ahead, do not be shocked to see all three of those players nominated for All-Stars, such is their abundant, and in ways, untapped potential, at this grade.
However, it will be the graft of the likes of Deane that should allow that trio, and more, to flourish.
Obviously, Cork will not win the All-Ireland title this year. Dublin, simply, are too good. Yet, this could be one of the most productive seasons for the code in the county for a few years.
Of course, that thesis is not based whatsoever on a January defeat of an undercooked Waterford.
Instead, that belief stems from faith in McCarthy and his management team to utilise the qualities they have at their disposal in an efficient and clever manner.
The days of haphazard, frustrating performances should be a thing of the past.
And with the likes of Michael Shields, a magnificent servant of Cork football, now retired from the highest standard, links to the 2010 All-Ireland-winning unit continue to diminish.
Therefore, doors are opening for other characters to be the ones their teammates look to for inspiration around the dressing room, and on the field itself.
That is a massively positive element for Cork as it means new faces will emerge as leaders of the ship. There will be no hiding place for anybody. There will be no excuse for not expressing their arrays of skills.
Deane, among others such as Mark Collins and Paul Kerrigan, are likely to take on the mantle of squad members leading from within the playing group itself.
Ruairi Deane, left, and Mark Collins of Cork make their way to the changing room at half time of the McGrath Cup match between Waterford and Cork. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
What we anticipate will be refreshingly different this year, though, is that the players will be armed with the tactical knowledge required to overcome their opponents.
These should be progressive times for Leeside football. The campaign in front of us may see the development of a force to be feared in the seasons ahead.