NIALL O’Halloran’s first season in charge of Éire Óg hurlers could scarcely have gone better – the only ‘problem’ is that it hasn’t been wrapped up yet.
The Ovens side are in the finals of both the senior A football and intermediate A hurling championships, with games against Mallow and Aghabullogue respectively to come when the green light is given for club action to resume.
Ballinhassig native O’Halloran, who guided Bandon to the premier intermediate hurling in 2016, is patiently waiting to get back on the pitch.
“The players have a programme that they can do at home, out in the garden or in the field next door.
“What we’re hoping is that, when they’re allowed go back, we’ll have a bit of prep-time before the leagues start. The plan is that the players will come back to us with a base and they’ll start gradually building them up and adding game-based activities into our training.
“The confidence I’d get out of the whole thing is that we did it already last year and as a dual club, we got it right because we got two teams to county finals. Of course, that momentum is gone now and you’re starting from scratch again, but we have a plan that we’re working to.
“We’re very lucky that we have this carrot dangling in front of us. Because the crossover of players is huge, with that comes a lot of organising and planning and managements working together.
“Donal Hurley in the hurling and Harry O’Reilly in the football are working together so well, and there’s me and Paudie Kissane. Paudie being the S&C coach for both teams is huge, definitely.”
Both O’Halloran and Kissane as outside coaches and he pays tribute to the work of the two managers/
“That’s hugely important,” he says, “Harry and Donal bring the whole thing together.
“They give myself and Paudie a lot of autonomy but from a club point of view, they want to do the best for the club and that’s not just winning games – it’s about having a culture and being better-prepared and getting the best out of their resources.
“They have an incredible group of players there at the moment. Obviously, they’ve been more successful in football but it’s the same characteristics – they work hard, they train hard and they’re very driven. They’re very similar to the Bandon group of players I had in many ways.
“I don’t have any doubt that, when we come back, they’re going to rock up to the pitch in good condition, that we can start building them up and be match-fit for the league. For the county finals, all we would hope is that the 2020 championships are respected and I think they will be.
“I’d hope that there’d be two weeks between each final – it would be disappointing if it wasn’t because we’ve waited for so long. It was ferocious going last year, nine games played in ten weeks.”
That they are still in with a chance of doing a double is testament to the quality of the players.
“I knew after the first training session that we had in January 2020 that there was something special about this group by the way they trained and the way they were open to new ideas.
“To have things player-centred is the way I like to approach things. We don’t dictate to them – we have a style of play that we’ve shown them how we want things done,
“There’s great experience and there’s youth, but there are leaders throughout the team. You go from someone like Conor McGoldrick at 19 years of age – he’s quiet but he’s a super leader – all the way up to the captains John Kelleher or Kevin Hallissey, who lead in different ways again. Then you have the Colm O’Callaghans, John Coopers, Eoin O’Sheas – there’s huge potential there.
“We’re disappointed with the way the season finished, but it will be easier going back this year in that they’ve got used to me and I’ve got used to them. We’re more than aware of what we face in the county final and it’ll be an incredibly tough assignment.
“We’ll fancy our chances but we know Aghabullogue will fancy theirs, too.”