SEÁN Óg Ó hAilpín has backed the Cork U20 hurlers to overcome their All-Ireland final anguish and keep progressing to the senior ranks.
The Rebels were defeated by Tipp in a bitterly disappointing All-Ireland final from a Cork perspective. Four goals were conceded early on and the Premier never looked like losing.
“I would be confident the majority of those players will step up to the senior panel in the next year or two. Cork hurling is in a good place. The Cork hurlers need to get a win in Croke Park, as we haven’t enjoyed much joy there lately. One win in Croke Park could act as the catalyst. Cork hurling has a good nucleus of players that we can pick from going forward which is promising,” argued the Na Piarsaigh club man.
For Seán Óg the most important thin is Cork are now competing in finals again at underage after a barren spell.
“It would have been great if we had won it. I know underage success doesn’t guarantee anything, but what it does do is guarantee you the confidence that you can take with you as you move up the grades. We missed out on that, unfortunately. They were up against a tremendous Tipperary team. Looking back at it now, there were probably elements of the Munster final which we were hinging on being repeated once again.
"We kept Jake Morris relatively quiet in the Munster final, but it is hard to do that in successive games. All is not lost. We have reached two All-Ireland finals in consecutive years which is encouraging.”
Cork GAA unveiled a new High Performance Manager recently in Aidan O’Connell. He will bring a wealth of top-level experience having worked with a series of elite sports stars in recent years with a number of top rugby teams.
“His pedigree is there. He has built up a great and very successful reputation with Munster Rugby. I have personal experience with him with regards strength and conditioning. It is fantastic news. He will have a vital role. He is a fantastic operator. He will bring a lot of consistency among all the teams which is important.”
Ó hAilpín was a dual player at the top level for Cork, featuring in the 1999 All-Ireland final.
“Even though the Cork senior team didn’t win any silverware, I thought they had a very good season. They made a lot of progress under Ronan. They played very good football which should be the template going forward. Keith Ricken did a great job with the U20 team. The style in which they won the All-Ireland final was great.”
The former Cork dual GAA star was speaking at the launch of the Sam Maguire GAA Sevens competition which will be held in Dunmanway on Saturday.
“It should be a fantastic weekend of fun and games. They have great activities planned which should attract a big crowd to the town. That is great for the economy. Sam Maguire is a great name. He has a great legacy.
"The Dohenys club are doing great work in helping to promote his name and legacy. It is great to see his name being honoured. His name is the reason why so many people take up playing Gaelic football. His name is so well known from the All-Ireland football trophy, but it is important people know all about his background and his life also. He has a fascinating story and through these competitions his name and story will become more well known which is very important.”
Two trophies are named after famous Cork men: Maguire and Liam McCarthy.
“They are the two most cherished and famous cups. Every team starts off their season with the aim of winning these cups. Liam McCarthy hailed from Ballygarvan and Sam Maguire from Dunmanway. Cork has a rich and proud history. It is important we embrace this and be proud of both these men. They are idolised all over Ireland. The seven-a-side tournament is a great concept. We need to keep promoting our strong history.”
The former All-Ireland winning captain, who retired from senior inter-county hurling in 2012 and club hurling in 2014, admits he is enjoying retirement
“I don’t miss playing at all. I am happy now being the hurler on the ditch and watching games. I enjoy coaching. Playing required a lot of sacrifice. If I had the chance to go back and do it all over again, I would love it. I
" am happy in retirement. Life goes on. I just enjoy watching Cork teams play now.”