PAUL O’Leary, who managed the Blarney hurlers to county championship glory last year, was delighted his club colleague Shane Barrett was recently named the Munster U20 Hurler of the Year.
The ace forward enjoyed a brilliant season for both Blarney and UCC and contributed massively to Blarney capturing the PIHC. He also played a key role in helping the Cork U20 hurlers reach the All-Ireland final, while he also made his senior inter-county championship debut as a late sub against Dublin.
O'Leary is delighted Barrett was honoured and recognised.
“It was a well-deserved award. We are all so proud and happy for him. His form was very impressive throughout the season and he was balancing a lot of different teams which makes it even more impressive.
"He played a big part in helping us win the county title. He shot the lights out with the Cork U20 hurlers and he made the breakthrough with the Cork senior hurlers which was a great end to a very strong individual season for Shane."
O'Leary, player-coach with his beloved Blarney over the last two years, is confident the 19-year-old will continue to progress and enjoy a very successful career.
“He is very level-headed. He works hard.
"He really stepped up last year with us at club level also.
"He has enjoyed a great career to date given his exploits in the Harty Cup and with both Blarney and Cork at various underage grades. He has achieved so much success already despite his relative youth.
"I am confident he will continue to develop. He is so driven. He is a great team player. He always works so hard to better his all-round game.
"We are looking forward to helping him fulfill his potential going forward. I am confident he has a very bright future ahead of him.”
Blarney are currently riding high on the crest of a wave following their PIHC county final success last year. They possess a nice mix of youth and experienced players. Paul is confident the club is well poised to enjoy a good future.
“We are starting to get a good few players through from the minor team who reached the Premier minor county final three years ago. We have had a good few players play with the various Cork teams in recent years which always helps with their development.
"They have really improved under the coaching from Donal O’Mahony.”
O'Leary was thrilled with the way everything came together last season, after a rollercoaster run to the county final.
“It was a unique year. The new championship format was very well run. The County Board deserves credit for their foresight.
"We had an up and down experience in the group stages. We started off very well against Inniscarra in a local derby. We were brought down to earth a week later against Castlelyons. We regrouped and played well against Blackrock.
"We then enjoyed a good win against Ballincollig when we got a last-minute goal. We kicked on and enjoyed great wins against Carrigaline and Castlelyons in the final.”
Blarney are looking forward with great confidence to the start of this year’s championship season when they will be competing in the senior hurling championship.
“Winning breeds confidence and we are looking forward to getting started. We are anxious to see who we will be drawn against. There will be a good jump up to the senior A grade.
"There are some very strong sides in the grade. We will have to up things by another 20% if we are to do well. The players are aware of this. They want to test themselves. It is exciting. We are eager to get going.”
He revealed that he has stepped down now after two very fruitful campaigns but the 33-year-old said he will continue to line out for his local team.
“I will concentrate on playing this year. I am looking forward to rocking up to training and doing my stuff.
"There was a bit of juggling combining the two roles, but I was fortunate that I had an excellent backroom team. The selectors also helped out with the coaching which was invaluable.
"I was lucky that I could delegate to a very good support team and they really excelled. I was surrounded by good people who made my job a lot easier.”
Ronan Byrne, who has served as a selector alongside O'Leary, takes over this season.
“He is a great club man. He was in goal when we won the championship back in 2008. He also played in the 1999 county final which we lost to Ballincollig.
"He has done a lot of work with the underage teams in the club. He was the U21 manager last year so he knows the young players very well.
"He has great knowledge and a real love of the club.”