Midleton hope that Ben O’Connor has the midas touch

He won counties as a player with Newtown and a coach of Charleville, now the former Cork star has the Magpies flying high ahead of Sunday's PSHC final with Glen Rovers
Midleton hope that Ben O’Connor has the midas touch

Ben O'Connor in his hey-day with Cork. Picture: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

GREAT players don’t always make great managers or coaches.

Regardless of the discipline, transferring natural skills on the pitch to the next generation isn’t an obvious progression.

Some take to it like the manor born, but it doesn’t cut with many.

For a class hurler like Ben O’Connor (42), the move to coaching looks to have been a seamless transition as Charleville and Midleton can vouch.

Tomorrow, his work with the east Cork club will be on view in the eagerly awaited Co-Op Superstores Premier Senior final against Glen Rovers at Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 3pm.

And if Midleton’s forwards, in particular, can re-produce the sort of electrifying form shown in dispatching the holders Blackrock in the semi-final then it promises to be a highly entertaining afternoon.

As a player, O’Connor had it all, skill, pace, trickery and a deadly eye for the posts. His amazing individual collection of honours across the grades sums it up really and little wonder then Midleton sought his services under Ger Fitzgerald’s astute management.

Terence McCarthy, who is a selector along with Steve Kane and Ian Kennefick, believes O’Connor’s involvement has made an appreciable difference.

“We had Ben for something like 12 weeks in the 2020 season and we’re in week 24 now,” he told 96FM during the week.

“You can see the difference and the rapport he has with the players.

“I always said about Ben, whatever about his hurling skills and his talent, that he is such a humble person and what he gives is fantastic.

He’s one of us. He puts on his Midleton gear and Ben is really unbelievable in the dressing room. Players love a tight, close atmosphere and Ben demands what he himself gave on the field. 

"It definitely has rubbed off on the players,” he added.

Midleton's coach Ben O'Connor against Blackrock during the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton's coach Ben O'Connor against Blackrock during the Co-Op Superstores Cork Premier SHC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

It’s no co-incidence Midleton’s forwards in particular have risen a few levels under O’Connor’s influence.

Conor Lehane has led by example as captain and Luke O’Farrell and Cormac Beuasang have contributed generously to the impressive high-scoring returns.

Scoring 4-22 against the Rockies reflected the potential and that’s not factoring in 14 wides either.

“The early goal gave us a lift because we believe there are goals in the team and it was the springboard for the performance,” McCarthy commented.

But the Rockies posted 3-19 themselves and that is an issue, especially given the potency in the Glen attack.

“Conceding 3-19 is definitely a concern and we will have to cut down on that, no doubt about that.”

Midleton stayed on to cast an eye on the other semi-final and were impressed with the Glen’s victory over a fancied Sarsfields. 

“They would have been happy at 0-5 to 0-2 down after 15 minutes because the high scoring Sars had been doing wasn’t there. You had to be impressed with the Glen and you had this feeling they were going to do it, just like the Imokilly match in the quarter-final.”

Both sides are a nice blend of experience and youth though McCarthy believes it balances itself out.

“We have plenty of players with experience of playing in big games for both Cork and ourselves, but I don’t see it as an advantage.”

Midleton’s appearance in the final has captured the imagination.

“We’d be hoping for a big crowd especially as there will be another east Cork team involved in the senior A final between Fr O’Neill’s and Kanturk.

“I think people have been starved of games though the Irish Examiner did a great job with their streaming of matches and the facilities at Páirc Uí Chaoimh are top class.

There are marquee players like Patrick Horgan for the Glen and Conor Lehane with us, but there are quality players throughout both sides.

“It’s fantastic to have a build-up of two weeks and I think we’re all starved of that bit of chat because we all love our hurling. Maybe it’s a final between two clubs that people wouldn’t have picked out but it promises to be a great occasion.

“A final on the 21st of November really shortens the winter and there’s a great buzz around the town. We’re getting great messages from people and it gives the whole town a lift.”

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