Cork v Limerick: U20s hopeful rising rugby star Ben O'Connor will be available

'Ben rang me on Tuesday night from France, where he is with Ireland, which shows the strong level of interest he has.'
Cork v Limerick: U20s hopeful rising rugby star Ben O'Connor will be available

Cork U20 players Ben O'Connor and James Dwyer. Picture: George Hatchell

CORK U20 manager Donal O’Mahony expects Ben O’Connor to be available for next Wednesday’s Munster U20HC clash with Limerick in Páirc Uí Rinn.

A win against Clare in Sixmilebridge last Wednesday earned Cork a provincial semi-final spot, with the clash against the Shannonsiders determining who finished first and second in the group.

O’Connor, an influential part of Cork’s All-Ireland minor win last year, was ruled out of the Clare game due to international rugby commitments, but O’Mahony is looking forward to have him as another option again.

“Ben rang me on Tuesday night from France, where he is with the Ireland U20s,” he said, “which shows the strong level of interest he has.

“The last thing he said was that he can’t wait to get back with us next week, so he’ll be available but he’ll have to fight for the jersey the same as the other lads that are in there.”

Cork took a while to settle against Clare, scoring the last four points to win by 1-19 to 1-17, having trailed by 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time. Coming through after a less-than-optimal performance was something that O’Mahony put down to the team’s spirit.

“We had seen Limerick and Clare last week and we knew that this was going to come down to the wire,” he said.

“Last November, we picked fellas for this battle, we didn’t pick them last week or the week before. 

These lads are full of character and they needed every bit of it there. That’s why we won the game.

“In the first half, you could see that Clare had the benefit of a really hard championship game, but we said that there were going to be no excuses.

“I think we remained composed at half-time, we said we’d worked our way out of this. We quoted last year’s opening game when we played Tipp above in Thurles and we were seven points down at half-time.

“That’s how you build character, trusting fellas when things are going against them.”

Allied to that is the strong depth within the squad.

“Their manager said it to coming off the pitch that we got a huge lift from the fellas coming off the bench,” O’Mahony said.

“That’s why we picked Colin Walsh coming off the bench, Jack Leahy, Eoin O’Leary, Darragh O’Sullivan and Mark Howell.

“Mark in particular I’d pick out because he had been playing in every game this year and he was unfortunate to miss out – other fellas might put their head down when that happens but Mark came out with the last ball, which shows his character.”

The result came the night after Cork minors had booked their semi-final spot with a win against Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, topping a group that also features Kerry.

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