O'Connell relishing new role as half-back

Darragh O'Connell, Westmeath. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Darragh O'Connell, Westmeath. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

How have you found playing in the new position on the half back line?

It's a new challenge, I hadn't maybe gone back that far on the field before so it was something new. It is something I look forward to and I definitely enjoyed it that day. I enjoyed just being able to attack the ball and to see what's in front of me from that position. Hopefully in the next couple of games – we'd a game against Limerick and a game against Clare the weekend – hopefully these will stand to me as the weeks go by for the upcoming league games.

How have you found the transition from John Meyler to Fergie O'Loughlin and Tom Howard?

This is my fourth year on the panel and ever since my first year on the panel the bodies have changed and faces have changed in the dressing room, changed drastically as you can tell from the retirements there. Fellas opting out for different reasons. What I feel is that the players who are in here at the moment, the younger guys coming up, want to push it on and strive forward and take on the challenge.

And do you feel like a senior player now even though you've only been there for four years? Even though you're 22/23?

I'm just 22 since Christmas, but yeah that's the way it happens. When you're there for a while, the younger lads will look up to you when you've been there for a year or two or whatever. Younger fellas coming into the panel will see that you've won the Christy Ring and we won the league and things and I think that's where we have to push on. Last year was a big disappointment in terms of the year and the way it went. It's difficult after you've won the Christy Ring to strive again. You want something more and that's why we have to focus on the league. That's why the Westmeath and the Laois game we have to get a result there. They're very important for the rest of the year.

Do you feel sometimes with the Christy Ring that the teams just that little bit above you, the Westmeaths, Laois, Carlows, aren't there, but they are in the league so then that becomes more competitive?

That's what we're saying. You have to get a result against Westmeath and Laois. You have to move up against the likes of Carlow and into the qualifiers and hopefully the GAA they will allow teams like Kerry, Westmeath and even teams below the Westmeaths an opportunity to get into the qualifiers, through the Christy Ring or whatever, because you can see from Westmeath last year they gave Galway a good game. 4-12 is a good score to put up against Galway and we saw what Galway went on to do.

What you're saying is the ambition has to be there for more?

You have to have something to strive for. It has to be a challenge. There has to be something else there. Personally that's how I look at it. From our experiences of winning the Christy Ring two years ago. It would be nice if the following year to have something to strive for.

We're off the pace for Munster championship hurling. The opportunity just isn't there.

Looking ahead to Westmeath game: last year you gave a good account of yourselves in the first half, but in the second half it just went away from you. That's frustrating, but it has to give some sort of confidence for the next day?

Certainly. I think Mullingar is a very hard place to go. It's a difficult place to play and especially hurling, the pitch is tight and it's quite an intimidating place to go. Definitely we'll take confidence from that and having them coming down to Tralee is going to be an advantage to us and we'll look forward to giving it a right go.

People were saying during the Waterford Crystal that Abbeydorney would be a perfect place for National Hurling League games – and we know you're an Abbeydorney man so maybe you've got a vested interested – but what do you think of that idea?

I'd absolutely love if we could get a National Hurling League game here. It's brilliant as you can see. The pitch, there's nowhere like it at the moment. It's a credit to the club, it's a credit to the people who've put in so much work over the past couple of years that we have a field and we have facilities like it with the stand and everything and I'd hope in the future that they will look at Abbeydorney as a place to play matches.

And the atmosphere the first day was great wasn't it?

Definitely. Tralee sometimes when there's a smaller crowd in Tralee it gets a bit lost. There's a much better atmosphere when Abbeydorney is full. Much more intimidating. When it's in North Kerry it's just a brilliant set up and hopefully in the future they'll get National League games.


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