Cork don't necessarily need to find Tim O'Mahony's 'best' position

Newtownshandrum man has played a variety of roles and his versatility is and will be a major asset
Cork don't necessarily need to find Tim O'Mahony's 'best' position

Tim O'Mahony on the ball for Cork against Limerick. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

ALONG with Blackrock clubmate and friend Dermot McCurtain, Tom Cashman broke into the Cork team during the 1977 hurling championship, the Rebels claiming back-to-back titles for the first time since 1953 and 1954.

While McCurtain would play most of his hurling for the county in the number 5 and 7 jerseys – occasionally in 4 – Cashman would have a more varied tour of duty. Midfield with Tim Crowley in 1977 and the following year as the three-in-a-row was achieved, he moved forward after that.

“Gerald [McCarthy] would have been midfield with Pat Moylan the previous year and then Timmy and myself came in,” Cashman said.

About two years later, when John Fenton came in and made midfield his own, Gerald and Timmy and myself were the half-forward line! Once you could hurl, you could play anywhere, really.”

That wasn’t the end for Cashman, though. When Cork reclaimed the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1984, he was at right half-back alongside Johnny Crowley and McCurtain and then, as captain in 1986, he was centre-back. Crowley played at 4 with Cashman’s brother Jim and Denis Walsh flanking him, McCurtain having been injured after the semi-final win over Antrim.

For Cork’s next win, in 1990, Seán O’Gorman played at left corner-back and would claim an All-Star Award that year. However, when Fr Michael O’Brien’s side reached the national league semi-final earlier that season against Wexford, the Milford man was named at full-forward.

A back by trade, since ‘the Canon’ had tried him at full-forward as a minor he had spent time on the edge of both squares and, when Bryan Murphy was injured against Wexford, O’Gorman was moved to the other end of the field and kept his place for the rest of the year.

All of this is a way of saying that versatile players are nothing new – hardly surprising, given that most inter-county players generally line out in the central diamond of centre-back/midfield/centre-forwards at club level.

Kyle Hayes, having spent the last two years as Limerick’s left half-back after making his name at centre-forward, returned to the Shannonsiders’ attack this year and has been just as effective for John Kiely’s side. It’s something that has been replicated by Cork as Tim O’Mahony has impacted positively as a substitute in the full-forward line in the past two games, having had the number 5 shirt prior to that.

Even before settling at right half-back, the Newtownshandrum player had travelled around the positions, lining out at centre-back, midfield and full-forward.

Speaking to The Echo last year, O’Mahony wasn’t unduly affected by the switching.

“I think other people tend to look at it more than I do,” he says. “I don’t really see it as much of a big deal, at the end of the day you’re going out hurling for Cork so if you can get into the starting 15, any young fella around the county would be happy with that.

“I don’t look at it as, ‘Oh, I could be playing there or there,’ – if you’re in, you’re happy to be in and you give it your all.”

VERSATILITY

While we often seek to pigeon-hole a player, it can be better for a team to have a player, or players, capable of filling a number of roles. It’s said that versatility can be a curse, preventing him or her from nailing down a regular spot, but Paul Madeley made 536 league appearances for Leeds United, wearing shirt numbers 2-11 inclusive, despite not having a ‘set’ position.

As much as we like to have an idea of what the ‘first 15’ should be, the game has changed to such an extent now that nothing stays the same for too long. The evolution of the use of substitutes along with peaks and troughs in players’ form, not to mention injuries, mean that the dynamic never stands still.

Maybe O’Mahony will return to the half-back line; maybe he will be a key impact player off the bench, in defence or attack, for the rest of the summer; or maybe the Cork number 14 jersey is his long-term destiny.

The bottom line is that there is no real need to put him into any of those boxes – he is playing well right now and so are Cork. Going forward, his adaptability is likely to ensure that he remains a key man, wherever he is located.

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