Sunday 17 December 2017

O'Sullivan ready if Clare use sweeper

Conor O'Sullivan, Cork, in action against Padraic Collins, Clare on 8 September, 2013
Conor O'Sullivan, Cork, in action against Padraic Collins, Clare on 8 September, 2013

Noel Horgan

HE always exhibits a cool exterior on the pitch, and intelligent and accurate distribution has become his trademark at this stage.

So, it was hardly surprising that Conor O'Sullivan (right) revealed he wasn't particularly nervous lining out in his first All-Ireland final with Cork three weeks ago.

"It was an unbelievable experience, I was six or seven back and I heard the noise before I saw anything," he said.

"The management had tried to have us ready for that, they had noise in the background when we were training, but nothing prepares you for what it's like when you get out there. It's completely different, you are looking around, soaking up the atmosphere for about five minutes, but then it's down to concentrating on the main business. I had slept well the night before, and I'd done my own thing the week before the match, so I wasn't exactly a ball of nerves.

"If you don't have a small bit of nerves, there's something wrong with you, but you get it out of your system in the warm-up, and you just try to enjoy yourself after that," he explained.

The Cork corner-back showed he was ideally suited to the role of extra-man after both Kilkenny and Dublin had a player sent off in the previous two games, and it was expected he would be entrusted with a similar task against Clare the last day.

"Everyone thought Clare would play a sweeper at the back, but they didn't, they went 15 on 15, and we had to react to that. I'd be comfortable enough playing as a spare man in the full-back line, I've done it before in matches and in training, but you have to be prepared for anything. It was Clare's choice to go without a sweeper, and it will probably be the same in the replay, seeing as they played a lot better than us overall in the drawn match," he admitted.

The Sarsfields clubman was at a loss to explain why Cork didn't perform up to scratch, although he said it has to be accepted that Clare turned in a tremendous performance on the day.

"They are a serious team, and it didn't surprise me in the slightest that they played so well. They have talented hurlers in every sector, the vast majority of them have won All-Ireland u-21 medals, and I'd say the biggest shock of the year so far was when we beat them in the Munster semi-final. They have improved a lot since then, they confirmed that three weeks ago, and there is no denying we were extremely fortunate to survive on the day.

"Patrick Horgan's point almost swung it for us in the end, and if ever a score deserved to win an All-Ireland it was that one. He kinda pushed it, and, with no backswing, I don't know how got the power into it to go over, and put us ahead for the first time after 71 minutes

"It would have been daylight robbery if we'd won, to be fair, because Clare were the better team for the vast majority of the game, and you'd have to say justice was done when Domhnall O'Donnell nailed an equaliser before the finish."

O'Sullivan is obviously hoping that Cork will improve for the replay, and he suggests that Clare, while they did almost everything right in the drawn match, might not be entirely happy with some aspects of their play either.

"I mean Clare must be wondering how they didn't kill us off when they were on top for so long. We just didn't turn up in the first half, and we were haunted to be still in the game at half-time, but there was no panic in the dressing-room

"The management gave us plenty of confidence, they told us we were bound to have a purple-patch if we kept plugging away, and you'd have to take encouragement from the fact that we managed to work ourselves back into the game. It has to be a positive from our perspective as well that we almost stole the match while performing well below our best, and we certainly believe there is more in us

"The bottom line is of course that if we don't play better we are going to be beaten on Saturday, and we are fully aware of that," he concluded


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