Lehane loving rough and tumble of life at top as Cork eye Cats' scalp
CONOR LEHANE cracks a wry smile when asked about Michael Fennelly's challenge on him in the opening exchanges of Cork's league clash with Kilkenny back in March.
"It wasn't the nicest of feelings," he laughed, ahead of Sunday's league decider rematch with the Cats. "But it was a fair challenge and I was kind of asking for it a small bit going down the line. All you can do is just get back up and drive on.
"You have to be prepared to take a few hits. It's a tough game. You have to be aware this kind of stuff will happen. It's how you react to it that's important. I love everything about the game and the physicality of it is important."
Typically, the 19-year-old took it in his stride, dusted himself down and helped Cork to a two-point win over Kilkenny.
"I try to go game by game, week by week, keep my head on my shoulders and not get too far ahead of myself," he said of his impressive campaign, which started with seven points from play against Waterford in front of live TV cameras.
And while Cork have suffered a setback after Donal Og Cusack was ruled out for the summer with an Achillies injury, Lehane is happy with the progress they have made in their short time under Jimmy Barry-Murphy.
"(Cusack) would be disappointed himself, but he'd be the first fella to remind you that it's not about an individual, it is all about the team and how the team performs.
"He'll be there with us and it's time for other people to step up and drive it on now.
"I'd say he definitely will have a role still with the team. He is such a big personality and such a big part of Cork hurling over the last number of years.
"Our main goal (in the final) is just to go out there and give it our best performance. We're going out for the win and so are Kilkenny.
"It's all about how we perform on the day. We're not really concentrating on Kilkenny, we're just focusing on ourselves."
Meanwhile, Antrim hurling manager Jerry Wallace is on the lookout for a new selector after Gregory O'Kane opted out.
The Dunloy clubman, who also served as a selector under Wallace's predecessor Dinny Cahill and managed the Ulster inter-provincial team earlier this year, has cited family commitments as his reason for stepping down.
Jim Nelson, who led Antrim to an ill-fated All-Ireland final appearance against Tipperary in 1989, is being tipped to replace O'Kane.