Former Cork ace admits work-rate has to be the platform for every hurler now

Former Cork ace admits work-rate has to be the platform for every hurler now
Midleton's Luke O'Farrell shoots from Newtownshadrum's Ryan Clifford. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

EVER since he struck a Harty Cup hat-trick for Midleton CBS a couple of weeks before his 16th birthday, Luke O’Farrell has been marked out as a flair player.

Blistering pace and a nose for goals were his trademarks coming up through the ranks for his school, club and county. At the age of 28, he’s still ferociously quick with the sliotar on his hurley but has also developed into a more rounded hurler.

The Midleton captain flashed over four lovely points in last weekend’s narrow quarter-final victory against Newtown but also forced a turnover and broke clear in the 65th minute to set up Cormac Beausang for the winner. Operating primarily in the half-forward line these days he concedes he had no choice but to alter his approach.

“I’ve adapted my game because it’s so intense now. The way you could hurl when I was coming through at minor is very different to what’s important in modern hurling.”

It’s something the Magpies have taken on board after some very disappointing campaigns since they were county champions in 2013. Given O’Farrell was only 23 then and Conor Lehane just 21 it looked like they’d established a new dynasty on Leeside but it didn’t happen.

“We’ve learned the hard way that work-rate has to be your starting point. Over the years we’ve had a lot of nice players but maybe we didn’t work to make it happen.

“The hurling comes after the work-rate. It just has to be about the team because you could score 13 points but if the team doesn’t click then you could still be on the losing end when the final whistle goes. One of the lads mentioned at the start of the year that you can play a full game off the ball and have a huge influence."

They’ve been forced to dig deep in two successive matches now, first against Glen Rovers and now Newtown.

“We found a way in our last two games and they’ve been titanic battles. We said that from the get-go if you’re going to have any success it takes everything you have. We spilt ourselves, even if we didn’t play brilliantly... we never died.”

Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Picture: Eddie O'Hare

They looked in trouble late on though when Newtown, despite being down a man, plundered 1-2 thanks to the efforts of Tim O’Mahony, Jamie Coughlan and Donagh Stack.

“I think there were a lot of stoppages in the few minutes before they got the goal and we definitely lost concentration. It’s something we’ve to work at but in other years that was a game we just wouldn’t have won.

“When you win a trophy, no matter how you do it, everyone says you’re doing the right things and it’s the opposite when you lose. We’ve chatted a bit more this year and we’ve come to realise that nothing is easy, you’ll have tough times. If you stick at it, put in the work, you’ll be there when the game is in the melting pot.”

Luke O'Farrell and Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Luke O'Farrell and Tim O'Mahony. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

While O’Farrell is the captain, and county winners like Killian Burke, Bud Hartnett and Patrick O’Mahony are no longer available, he doesn’t feel there’s any extra burden on him.

“A lot of fellas have stepped up in their later years. It’s just a title. The only thing is if you preach a bit then you better do doing it yourself, putting in those tackles.”

While Lehane remains an integral part of the Cork set-up, O’Farrell, despite coming off the bench effectively in 2017, was omitted from the panel.

“I had plenty of chances in my younger years and maybe less chances in my latter years but look, that’s the way it goes. I’m enjoying it now with the club because you can have that happy medium between your life and your hurling.

“It’s a ferocious commitment but it wasn’t like I walked away from it, the decision was made for me. Playing with Cork is very intense but then when the team is going as well as they did this summer I’m sure all of them are enjoying it too.”

He’s certainly enjoying the Mapgies’ trips to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in recent weeks, with a semi-final against Blackrock next up, part of a double-header with UCC versus Imokilly.

“The more games they play up here the better. It’s where you want to be hurling. Even if the crowds aren’t huge, there’s a great sense of occasion.

“Blackrock were in the final last year and their result against the ‘Barrs said it all. They’ll be on a mission. We’ll need a massive improvement to stop them.”

It’s the business end of the season where club legends are made. The Rearden’s Club All-Stars will also be decided between here and November. It’s the seventh year of the popular scheme for hurlers and footballers, with Brian Lawton (below) the reigning Club Hurler of the Year.

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