Midleton v Glen Rovers: Ben O'Connor factor could be crucial in the Páirc

Manager Ger Fitzgerald talks about the impact former Cork star Ben O'Connor has had in Midleton
Midleton v Glen Rovers: Ben O'Connor factor could be crucial in the Páirc

Midleton coach Ben O'Connor on the line against Blackrock at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

MIDLETON will have two men who have captained Cork in All-Ireland hurling finals on the sideline for Sunday’s Co-op SuperStores Premier SHC final against Glen Rovers.

Having skippered the Magpies to county glory in 1991, Ger Fitzgerald was chosen to lead Cork the following year. Now Fitzgerald is the manager as the club seeks to win an eighth title, with Cork’s 2004 All-Ireland-winning captain Ben O’Connor alongside him as coach.

The Newtownshandrum native had previously guided Charleville to senior level before taking on the role with Midleton for 2020. While that delayed campaign was disappointing for them as they failed to reach the knockout stages, this year has gone much better and Fitzgerald is full of praise for the part O’Connor has played.

“Ben has done a huge job for us,” he says.

He has come in and gelled with the lads. The line last year that he didn’t have enough time, I wouldn’t buy into that – we just didn’t well on the day. Ben did an excellent job last year and he’s done equally well this year.

“We couldn’t thank him enough for the work and the commitment and the experience that he brings. We’re delighted with him, he has integrated well into the group and the lads have great regard for his coaching as it’s top-class. It’s lively, it’s energetic, it’s entertaining, the sessions are very good and he brings a wealth of experience and basic hurling knowledge.

“Ben is a great steady lad, he’s rock-solid in his decision-making and his analysis of teams and games. It’s a pleasure working with him, I really enjoy it.”

CHALLENGE

In this year’s championship, Midleton finished second in their group to Sarsfields, losing the final game after both clubs had beaten Carrigtwohill and Na Piarsaigh. Since then, Erin’s Own were seen off in the quarter-final before the superb victory over champions Blackrock in the semi-final last Sunday week.

That same day, the Glen overcame Sars to make it to a third straight final and sixth in eight years. Given how the respective finalist did against the Riverstown side, Fitzgerald is wary of the challenge that the northsiders will bring on Sunday.

“You saw what Sars did to us – the Glen beat Sars,” he says.

We’re under no illusions as to what we’re facing and we know that we have to perform. It’ll probably be a different type of game to the last one but you never know.

“The Glen have had a couple of great victories in this championship. I saw them against Imokilly and I thought that that was a massive performance from them. Once that game went down to 14 men each, there was only going to be one winner.

“They performed excellently against Sars the last day, so we’re under no illusion as to the challenge we face but hopefully we can rise to it. Our graph is on the rise, so we’re going in with an even chance.

“If we can perform and give a good account of ourselves, that’s all we can ask from the players.”


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