Conor Lehane: Midleton's strong underage systems keeps older players on their toes

Jack McKay talks to Cork star Lehane, Brion Saunderson and John Fenton about the Magpies' plans for 2023
Conor Lehane: Midleton's strong underage systems keeps older players on their toes

Midleton talisman Conor Lehane is confident his club will bounce back from last year's disappointment. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

NO doubt Midleton’s senior hurlers and their management team will be focused on the coming year, but with talented young prospects complemented by seasoned veterans, the Magpies have a team that will remain competitive for years to come.

Talking to one of those veterans in captain Conor Lehane, the forward praised Midleton’s underage teams. 

“Going back over last season, even with football, to see the success that they [juvenile teams] had, even if they didn’t win, but like getting to finals and putting themselves out there, it’s obviously positive. 

"It’s very encouraging for us because it keeps older fellas on their toes as well.” 

They have a Division 2 league opener to come against Bishopstown this Saturday on home turf, their first competitive game of 2023.

Goalkeeper Brion Saunderson is currently part of former Midleton manager Ben O’Connor’s Cork U20 setup and was also between the posts for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup, where they were edged out in extra time of the semi-final. 

As one of the Magpies' rising stars, Saunderson is well aware of the strong future the club has. 

“Mikey [Finn] and Dave [Cremin] came through last year but didn’t really get that many games into them in Championship. This year could be a chance for them to step up and move forward a bit more,” he says. 

“Luke [O’Farrell] and Paul [Haughney] are very experienced, and I feel they can help everyone. It’s my third year now, and it’s the same with Alex [Quirke] and Ciarmhac [Smyth], and those lads still have plenty more room to get better, from the level they are already at, so it’s very exciting.” 


Chairman John Fenton shares that excitement, saying; “I’d be very hopeful. 

We won the U15 county last year, we were beaten in the U17 final and won the U19 county championship.

“There are lots of players there, the competition is going to be very tight for places, and we have a lot of good groups coming behind those lads, so I would be very hopeful that we would be there or thereabouts most years in the future.” 

Midleton’s hurlers have been the primary focus of the club for many years, leaving the football side forgotten, with the club having not won a Cork Senior Football Championship since 1890, the year they won the All-Ireland club title.

Fenton also shared his thoughts on the football situation in Midleton, and what to expect going forward, even if they naturally lean heavily towards the small ball. 

“We had a disappointing year last year, but this year we also have a new selection committee in place. They’re very proactive already in terms of preparing the team for the coming year.

“All the players on the hurling panel have given the commitment that they’ll play when they’re available, and with that being the case, I think we’ll be close. 

"We won an East Cork Junior Championship a couple of years ago, so when our players are committed and available, we’re as good as anybody in East Cork. So, I’m very hopeful that we’ll see a good representation from Midleton on the football side as well this year.”

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