Sunday 26 May 2019

O'Connor all set for hectic week as U-21 duty precedes senior outing

'O'Connor picked up a knee injury in the winter but he's returned better than ever in 2018' Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
'O'Connor picked up a knee injury in the winter but he's returned better than ever in 2018' Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Cathal Dennehy

Youth may be wasted on the young, but that's not an accusation you could level at Wexford's Rory O'Connor who, at 19, continues to make ample use of his powers of recovery.

Tomorrow evening in Portlaoise, he'll be a pivotal member of the Wexford side that take on Galway in the Bord Gáis Energy U-21 Leinster Hurling Championship final and afterwards, he'll have fewer than 72 hours before rejoining the Wexford seniors for Saturday's All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final against Westmeath.

All this arriving off the back of a four-in-a-row run of games in the Leinster Championship, where Wexford finished third to keep their All-Ireland hopes alive.

"For me it's grand, I'm young and I can run off a knock and get on with it but older guys are feeling the knocks," he says.

"It was always Thursday (after games) that I came around and got going again. You're trying to get yourself up all week and mentally it's tough."

He's not complaining about the current format, just suggesting that it might benefit from an adjustment.

"Four in a row is extremely tough so maybe play two, have one week off and play two again. But as a player you love playing matches all the time, you're not training 24/7."

After an exhausting 2017 campaign where he helped St Peter's to a Leinster Colleges football title and was then named a starter with the Wexford senior hurlers, O'Connor (picked up a knee injury in the winter but he's returned better than ever in 2018, hitting 36 points in the four games of the Leinster SHC.

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He knows much is expected of the Wexford seniors, and he thinks they're building towards something big.

"We're convinced we can do anything as long as we take every match as an All-Ireland final.

"We've trained for two hard weeks now and we won't be holding back whatsoever, we don't have our eyes fixed on anything else past (Saturday)."

O'Connor was released to the U-21s just a week before their Leinster U-21 semi-final against Dublin, where they came from behind to win by three points.

He knows it'll take a better performance to stop Galway, but he feels that's within them.

"It was our first game so seeing how we were going to play together took a while and that was shown in the first half.

"The U-21 management have confidence in the senior management that we're getting good training, obviously playing at a higher standard, so once we come back we are always in good nick."

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