Former Cork hurler feels new format will produce better championship this winter

Former Cork hurler feels new format will produce better championship this winter
Brendan O'Sullivan of Cork nearly takes the referee's head off in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final against Antrim. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

FORMER Cork hurling star Brendan O’Sullivan believes that the change in format of the inter-county hurling championship, leading to an increase in knockout games, will be beneficial.

For the past two years, the Munster and Leinster championships have been run on a round-robin basis but the system this year will be similar to what it was before the new format was brought in, with losing teams given one ‘back door’ chance.

“I think it’ll make for a way better championship,” O’Sullivan says. “You’ve only a short period of time and the games have to be played. There’s no back door in the football and one in the hurling but teams are going out knowing there’s no real margin for error.”

In such a landscape, teams can pick up momentum with a couple of good results and O’Sullivan has fond memories of the 1990 double season, when an unfancied Cork went all the way. Having begun their campaign with an expected win over Kerry, the Rebels then saw off Waterford, despite being outsiders.

“Waterford had beaten Cork in 1989 and beat us well the second day,” he says.

“We were going in as underdogs, which always suits Cork, but it was a great win afterwards. Then, the Munster final against Tipperary was the same thing. They were the All-Ireland champions and we were huge underdogs again but that suited us.

“I think it might suit Cork again this year. Nobody is expecting a whole pile out of Cork and when it’s knockout like this, there’s an opportunity to pick up momentum.

“They’re straight into a Munster semi-final against Waterford, which is a great chance for either team to make the final.

“Injuries and things play a part, it’s about keeping the best 15 players available.”

Ger Cunningham, Brendan O'Sullivan, Denis Walsh and coach Fr Michael O'Brien celebrate the double.
Ger Cunningham, Brendan O'Sullivan, Denis Walsh and coach Fr Michael O'Brien celebrate the double.

O’Sullivan and his fellow Valley Rovers clubmates will be hoping Chris O’Leary is in the mix for a start. Having been on the panel in 2017 and 2018, O’Leary didn’t feature in 2019 but returned this year under Kieran Kingston and impressed in the league. O’Sullivan feels that O’Leary brings attributes that are not common on the Cork panel.

“It’s great for our club to have a guy like Chris on the panel,” he says. “He’s a big, strong lad and he has plenty hurling in him. I think Cork need a type of player like that — big, physical players have tended to be lacking.

“Maybe it’s the way hurling has gone but if you look at Kilkenny or Galway, they are big teams. They’re strong and physical and Brian Cody always says it’s about winning your own ball, the dirty ball and Cork have to do that.”

O’Sullivan was speaking at the launch of the Hurl Safe visor, the creation of fellow Valleys men Derek Sheehan and Fergie Twohig. It’s designed to fit inside the facemasks of helmets to as to limit the spread of Covid-19 and O’Sullivan is very impressed with the initiative.

“I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he says. “It’s preventing the kids from spreading or contracting Covid-19 and anything that does that is brilliant. It’s such a simple idea and it can be adapted to all helmets and does the job.”

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