O'Sullivan's heartache over dashed final dream
WHEN a broken collarbone suddenly knocked Brian Murphy out of the Munster final just two weeks ago, one of his team-mates knew exactly the extent of his devastation.
Murphy may be a massive loss to the Cork defence but Paudie O'Sullivan's absence since April also robs them of another blue-chip player in their forwards.
"Brian was asking me how he's going to cope for the Munster final but I don't know how I'm going to manage myself so I wasn't much help," O'Sullivan admitted wryly.
O'Sullivan broke both his tibia and fibula in a club game with Cloyne and now has two pins in his knee, two more in his ankle and a steel pin vertically running down his leg "to keep all that in place".
Having only ditched the crutches a fortnight ago after eight weeks on them – and coming after the cruciate injury he suffered in 2007 – he has been particularly unlucky.
"I was in hospital a full week. I think the two days before the operation were two of the hardest I ever put down," O'Sullivan revealed.
"I was thrown in a hospital trolley in the hallway and it wasn't a nice place to be, with too much time to think and the worst things go through your head, like would I get back again to the level I was at?"
But the Cloyne forward is naturally upbeat and says if there's anything he can do to help out his team-mates in the week that every hurler dreams about, then he will.
"If the lads want us there the two of us will be but I won't say it's going to be easy," he admitted.
"But it's nice to be around with the lads and to stay involved with the set-up and to be in the routine, pre-match. It would probably be harder to be at home missing out on everything.
"There's a bit of normality when you're in the dressing-room or going to the hotel beforehand. If I was sitting at home I mightn't even watch the game."
O'Sullivan's family are steeped in the unique tradition and thrill of Munster final day. His older brother Diarmuid was once 'The Rock' of the Cork defence and their father Jerry has served as Cork chairman in recent years.
"The first Munster final I would have been at was when my father was heavily involved in Pairc Ui Chaoimh. It was Tipperary and Clare in 1997, the time I first started taking notice of hurling in general," O'Sullivan recalled.
"Jamesie O'Connor was my hero back then and I remember sitting on the steps watching him and the whole atmosphere, the noise levels. As a young fella you couldn't believe it, you could only dream of being in that situation yourself."
He came off the bench in both of their Munster final games against Waterford in 2010 and reckons Sunday's game will fit the classic Munster final mould, pointing to that epic provincial U-21 final between the same sides two years ago, which Limerick won in extra-time.
"Anytime you meet a Limerick team you know what you're going to get," O'Sullivan said.
"They'll be honest and in your face and we saw their dedication against Tipperary."
But he reckons Cork have also been similarly underestimated, pointing to UCC's Fitzgibbon Cup success as the platform for players like Seamus Harnedy to blossom.
"A couple of performances in the league saw us written off but we played pretty well in Nowlan Park, beat Tipp and drew with Waterford and Galway," he said.
"People hadn't looked at the depth in our panel or that a lot of fellas were rested in the league because of how much they put into the Fitzgibbon. They were always going to be more prominent in the championship."