Sunday 17 December 2017

O'Connors set to retire as Walsh ponders future after Rebels' exit

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Ben and Jerry O'Connor may be the latest of Cork's most recent All-Ireland medal winners to contemplate retirement after the Rebels' championship exit to Galway over the weekend.

The twins, who have been involved with Cork since the late 1990s, look like they have played their last game for the county.

Others may also follow in the wake of a most disappointing defeat that, according to the last man to guide them to an All-Ireland title, wasn't "totally unexpected." John Allen, manager in 2005 and '06, suggested on radio that the O'Connors would most likely retire.

He followed up yesterday by admitting he had no intimate knowledge of such a decision being taken by the pair but said he would be surprised if they continued.

"I'm only putting two and two together like everyone else. They owe Cork hurling nothing. Ben was involved in the 1999 All-Ireland final and with Donal Og Cusack he's the only survivor from that team," said Allen.

"People say this is the end of an era but in reality the era has been gradually changing for three or four years now.

"From the 2003/04 team there are really only a handful left now," Allen pointed out.

It was speculated strongly that Jerry O'Connor would retire at the end of last season. Others may also decide to quit, with speculation centring on Ronan Curran and Cusack, but Cusack could easily elect to remain on as he is still the No 1 goalkeeper in the county.

Niall McCarthy also showed enough in recent games to suggest that he could continue for another couple of seasons.

There is also speculation that Denis Walsh will become the fourth hurling manager to part company with his county this season in the coming days.

Walsh, who has overseen three championship campaigns, has left the door open and invited requests for him to stay on. However, if the mood suggests otherwise he will not allow his name to go forward for another term.

Allen said he wouldn't be critical of the current management and wondered if there were many better players in the county outside the 26 that they worked with for this championship.

He said he wasn't surprised that Cork lost as they did after watching the recent qualifier game against Offaly.

"I thought that was a poor standard match. The reality for Cork is that we are facing a few years of pain ahead and that is the legacy of our lack of success at underage level," he said.

"There is a huge gulf in standard between Tipperary and Kilkenny and the rest, based on the evidence of the last 12 months -- and Cork have suffered in particular."

If Walsh was not to seek an extension to his term, the potential replacements are not all that obvious.

Allen and the current Limerick manager Donal O'Grady would not be high on the county board's wish list and are unlikely to make themselves available anyway.

O'Grady has stuck with his commitment to spend just one year with Limerick.

Irish Independent

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