Sunday 17 December 2017

'The Rock' has Rebel progress in his sights

Cork selectors Diarmuid 'the Rock' O'Sullivan, right, and Pat Hartnett discuss tactics during their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 2 match against Dublin at Páirc Uí Rinn. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cork selectors Diarmuid 'the Rock' O'Sullivan, right, and Pat Hartnett discuss tactics during their Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 2 match against Dublin at Páirc Uí Rinn. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

A nine-point defeat to Tipperary in the corresponding Munster Championship match last year bears no resemblance to where Cork are now as a hurling team, selector Diarmuid O'Sullivan believes.

Cork subsequently struggled past Dublin in a qualifier before losing to Wexford, giving them just two competitive wins from nine games in 2016.

But the All-Ireland winning full-back, known as 'the Rock' in his playing days, is certain that the team has improved and that the management have got better at their jobs too.

"Last year has gone," he said. "That doesn't interest us. If I worried about all the games we lost in the past we'd be here for a long evening. It has no resemblance to where we are now."

Cork had a much better League campaign this year, beating Tipp in their final group game before losing to Limerick. O'Sullivan can see progress.

"I'd like to think we have improved," he said. "There are very good positives. The group is gelling better and better as the weeks go on, on and off the field.

"The older lads teach the younger lads about work-life balance; a lot of them are under a lot of pressure so it's good to see that mentoring. It gives the older lads, who have so much to offer, encouragement to see the younger lads develop, and they help to push them as high as they can go."

Players like Mark Coleman, Luke Meade and Shane Kingston have continued to improve and have brought a sharper edge to Cork throughout the field.

Their management group's development has also been apparent and O'Sullivan feels more comfortable on the sideline than he did at any stage last year.

"It has taken a bit of time," he acknowledged. "It has become more comfortable since the turn of the year. Last year was more of a 'feeling-out' process for us all as a management team.

"John Meyler has been a big addition and we've gelled better. We're doing things we might not have done before. Much as we analyse the lads, we're analysing ourselves as much. We're trying to improve all the time."

Collapse

O'Sullivan is paying little heed to Tipperary's collapse in the League final against Galway, suggesting the All-Ireland champions should be viewed in the totality of what they have done since this time last year.

"Two defeat in what is it, 14 games? I don't think we can judge them on the back of that," he said.

"We have to get our own house in order. We're doing our best - doing a hell of a lot - to do that, and it's up to Tipp to get their own house in order."

Whatever structure is in place for hurling in 2018, O'Sullivan believes the lure of the Munster Hurling Championship will never dilute.

"As far as I'm concerned it's the championship to play in, we were reared on it ," he said. "I remember Seanie O'Leary saying before the 2000 Munster final saying he treasured his Munster championship medals more than anything.

"It's around the corner, this is where you want to be at this time of the year."

Irish Independent

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