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ó hAilpín: Manager has made Rebels a force again

Seán óg ó hAilpín made his inter-county debut for Cork under Jimmy Barry-Murphy and he will finish his career under him too.

"It's great to be back involved with him because I started with him and I'll always owe him a degree of gratitude for that," says ó hAilpín. "You're at the beck and call of whoever is managing you; if he likes you he will bring you in and if he doesn't it's tough.

"From a player's perspective, Jimmy's list of achievements is unbelievable but he never once mentions what he did in his playing days, there is no ego about him. You'd swear by the way he conducted himself he never won anything in his life, he is a very passionate Cork fella and very proud of the county's history but he concentrates on the present, the future and job in hand."

Although almost 15 years have passed since Jimmy Barry-Murphy's first stint as manager of Cork ended, ó hAilpín doesn't think that he has changed much. He is still as charismatic and likable as ever, but he has adapted to the modern game.

"The man has always been adored wherever he goes, his biggest struggle was to get into the dressing room to give us a pep talk because people were holding him up outside.

"Back in the mid-1990s, I'd have said that preparation was gone very professional and what we were doing was the thing to do. But if we did the same training now as we did then we simply wouldn't survive.

"He is very open, if it's for the good of the team then he is happy to try it. Basically, he brought in guys who he is entrusting to look after different things; we have a physical trainer coming from Kildare. Obviously Jimmy did a bit of research on him and he knows what he wants. Jimmy is the guy who keeps the operation running in sync and the overall end product is his at the end of the day.

"Jimmy has realised that the game has changed and he has brought in what we need. I know managers coming in have to stamp their own authority on the set-up, but if they don't buy into what is going on in the industry in terms of team preparation, fitness and even tactics, then it won't work."

ó hAilpín feels Barry-Murphy is more comfortable in his role this time round. In the 1990s it was trial and error at the beginning, Cork hurling was going through a bleak time and after they suffered a hammering at the hands of Limerick, Barry-Murphy came under pressure.

"Back then local papers were looking for his head so he has gone through and experienced the tough times. So coming into the fold now people were saying he is mad to take the Cork job but I'd say from his experiences before he is more equipped to deal with it."

ó hAilpín is delighted to be in a league semi-final now, even if he confesses he is a little surprised. "I can't speak on behalf of the management but from a player's point of view all that we were looking for was a reasonable performance in the league and try to be more competitive.

"In the last few years we rolled over easy, we lost by double digits and that doesn't sit well down in Cork. So if we can go from a situation from losing in double digits to letting teams know that we won't roll over we'd be happy with that."

Sunday Indo Sport