A phone call from Luke O'Farrell led to Ben O'Connor becoming Midleton's first outside coach

"I went down, met the boys and from the first night I knew straight away there was no problem."
A phone call from Luke O'Farrell led to Ben O'Connor becoming Midleton's first outside coach

Midleton manager Ger Fitzgerald (centre) with coach Ben O'Connor and selector Terence McCarthy after defeating Glen Rovers. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

A winner of four county SHC medals as a player with his native Newtownshandrum, Ben O’Connor now has two victories as a coach, with Midleton’s title last Sunday following on from Charleville’s PIHC win in 2018.

Midleton are fourth on the Cork roll of honour behind the city big three of Blackrock, Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s and all of their previous success had come with management teams composed from within. O’Connor’s appointment as coach to Ger Fitzgerald was a new departure but it has gone well.

“Luke O'Farrell rang me the first day and I was actually at the races in Mallow,” he said.

“I said I'd ring him when I got home so I rang him and he asked me to get involved. I was thinking and I said, ‘I'll ring you back in a week, Luke. Give me a few days.’

“So I did and I was on to a few fellas. I was ringing around and I heard that never before had they an outsider. So it put you thinking a small bit – ‘What's the story here? If I go down, will everything go right?’ 

So I went down, met the boys and from the first night I knew straight away there was no problem. 

"With Mr Midleton, Ger, he had everything organised. I just knew there was a group of players who would do anything they were asked to do and as it turned out we have about 40 on the panel and every fella is deserving of their county medal because they all put in a fierce effort and number 40 has done as much training as number 1.

“All clubs will say that but I've seen it first-hand. It's unbelievable down there. They're all mad hurling down there.”

Midleton supporters Harry and Paul Daly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton supporters Harry and Paul Daly at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

In O’Connor’s first year in charge, Midleton were unable to get out of a group containing Sarsfields, Douglas and Ballyhea, with Covid-19 impacting upon preparation time.

“Yeah, we had a load of work done with them last year and the next thing in March it was called off,” he said.

“Then we had four weeks to get ready for championship and it was all over in about five weeks. This year, we started May 15 and we had them until today without a break. 

We didn't get much of a league but we still won the league, we had four or five matches out of that and got our few challenge matches. In fairness to the championship, it's a great championship with the way it's operating.

“There are no dead rubbers and it's competitive so the extra time without a break did help. Fellas were mad for road and a few new bodies came into it as well this year so it's just putting pressure on fellas inside.”

Midleton players Luke Dineen and Sam Quirke after their Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC final victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Midleton players Luke Dineen and Sam Quirke after their Co-op SuperStores Cork Premier SHC final victory at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Now, having returned to the top in Cork, the focus turn to the Munster championship.

“We're going all out to win the Munster and we're not hiding that,” O’Connor said.

“It's not too often that you win a county and it isn't too often you get an opportunity to represent your county after that so we're going to Kilmallock in three weeks’ time and we're going to have a right cut and we want to stay in this competition for as long as we can.”

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