AFTER making the breakthrough in Cork in the 1980s, Midleton transferred their success to the provincial and national stages.
They won the Munster club SHC title at the first attempt in 1983 and then followed their 1987 Cork title by going all the way to All-Ireland glory – an occasion so big that the Cork-Midleton railway line, closed at the time, was specially reopened to take supporters to Dublin.
Since then, only one other Cork club has won a Munster or All-Ireland title – but, ahead of Sunday’s AIB Munster Club SHC semi-final against Kilmallock at the TUS Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, Midleton can call on some of that expertise too.
Ben O’Connor was part of the Newtown sides that won Munster in 2003, 2005 and 2009, claiming the 2004 All-Ireland, and is now Midleton’s coach. His former club and county team-mate Pat Mulcahy isn’t surprised at how well O’Connor has transitioned since retiring from playing.
“He was always very knowledgeable,” he says.
“When he was younger, he wasn’t the kind of guy who’d stand up in the dressing room but, as he got into his mid-to-late 20s, he did become more like that, willing to talk – not shout but talk reason.
“Obviously, he could back it up, which gave greater weight to his words. Sometimes, when you go into coaching, that can be the hardest thing, not being able to show people what you want them to do.
“He always had a very clear picture in his own mind as to how he wanted the game played, that was probably his biggest strength. That clarity is great from a player’s perspective.”
Prior to joining Midleton at the start of 2020, O’Connor had helped Charleville to county PIHC success in 2018. Prior to that, he gained experience at home.
“Yeah, when he was still playing, he was helping out with the U21 team and other underage sides,” Mulcahy says.
“His first big step was with Charleville and in the first year Kanturk beat them and that was a big disappointment but they won the county the year after.
Ultimately, transmitting a message successfully is one of the key factors that decides how successful a coach will be and Mulcahy feels that O’Connor is able to do that.
“He can be very personable and he has huge confidence in what he thinks,” he says.
“That’s the key thing – whatever you say to someone, if you don’t have confidence in what you’re trying to get across, it’s not going to land.
“Ben would be quite good in being effective with his message. I haven’t seen his training sessions but I’d imagine they’re quite consistent in how he wants to play the game. It might have taken a while for the message to get across but they’ve had some big wins this year.
“He certainly has the personality to make an impact.
“He’s always had an incredible determination to win and to get over the line. He’s been able to transfer that from being a player to being coach.
“For me, the thing that jumps off the page is that people might have thought you could get at that Midleton team coming down the stretch, and the same with Charleville, but he turned them into really tough teams to beat.
“That spirit that he has instilled in his teams comes from his own personality.”