Saturday 16 December 2017

O hAilpin: I had to pinch myself after surprise nod

Sean Og O'hAilpin, Cork, during the game against Waterford. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Cork v Waterford, Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork.
Sean Og O'hAilpin, Cork, during the game against Waterford. Allianz Hurling League, Division 1A, Cork v Waterford, Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork.
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Sean Og O hAilpin admitted he had to "pinch" himself when the Cork team was announced on Thursday night and he had been included.

O hAilpin rolled back the years with a vintage performance for Cork in Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final win against Waterford.

Apart from a spell in the second quarter when he struggled with John Mullane, who had moved out onto his patch, O hAilpin was imperious.

He helped to set up two second-half points and then finished superbly himself for a rare championship point in that late flurry of scores that got the Rebels over the line. It was more action than the 35-year-old thought he would ever see in a Cork jersey again.

And with John Gardiner coming in to shore up the middle after Eoin Cadogan's departure -- Cadogan had reportedly been ill during the week -- it underlined that the veteran pair have not become surplus to requirements just yet.

It was O hAilpin's first championship start in 2012 and Gardiner's first appearance in the four matches Cork have now played.

"I was more than surprised to get the call during the week when the team was named and I heard myself at half-back. I had to pinch myself because I didn't think I was going to get in," O hAilpin acknowledged.

"Ideally it would have been great to have started previous ones, but that is the system that Cork have been going with this year. They are going for youth and I am all for that. It's all about making a contribution no matter how small or big it is.

"I was kind of resigned to the fact that I was just going to come on, if anything, as an impact sub. Looking at it from a management point of view, I thought they'd start with the same team, and if things weren't working out I'd get in.

"As you saw with John Gardiner there in the second half, I thought that would be my contribution for the year, which is fine by me too. They make the calls and you have got to run along with it."

O hAilpin (pictured) is pleased with the progress Cork have made, and hopes that the young players can now abandon any fear they might have of playing in Croke Park for the first time.

"It's a different dimension for this Cork team now. A lot of the fellas wouldn't have been involved over the last couple of years so hopefully they can just go out and play with youthful exuberance and have no fear," he said.

"Croke Park is a different arena. Thurles is regarded as a big pitch, but there's huge expansion in Croke Park, and Galway will be looking at the same thing.

"Their demolition of Kilkenny was frightening. And if they repeat that I don't think any team would beat them.

"To get to the semi-final any year, especially from the foundation we were starting off on, is good going, but as I was trying to explain to the younger brigade, opportunities don't present themselves too often and when they do you've got to take them."

Irish Independent

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