Donncha savours interpros

It mightn’t be the public’s competition anymore but the Interprovincial series certainly remains one for the players, says Donncha O’Connor.

During the week, he was asked by a couple of Cork team-mates if he was part of the Munster panel for this weekend.

“They said they would have loved to be called up,” he says, “I don’t know what it is but it’s something a lot of players want to be a part of when they are able to.

“It’s a pity the interest doesn’t seem to be there among the general public but the players have a definite interest in it, alright.”

O’Connor didn’t play last year because of club commitments but tomorrow will mark his third series having played in the 2008 and ’09 competitions.

It falls at a time when Cork are catching their breath from a couple of opening Division 1 defeats. O’Connor, along with the other six county players in Ger O’Sullivan’s panel, is hoping to take advantage of the extra game-time.

“It can be a bit awkward,” he says of the three-week break between round two and three. “From a Cork perspective, we haven’t had a great start to the league so the more games we play the better. The likes of Noel [O’Leary] haven’t played a whole pile of games so it’s good for everyone.”

For those who argue the series isn’t taken serious enough, both Munster teams will travel up this evening to cut the journey toArmagh.

As a forward, O’Connor is enthused by the freedom expressed by teams in the series. It harks back to a different era of Gaelic football but it sure beats trying to unlock a blanket defence any day of the week.

“A lot of teams are setting themselves up that way but in the Interprovincials there’s a lot of catch and kick.

“It’s a great way to play. Having said that, it mightn’t look like that the next day.

“I wouldn’t imagine lads will be taking it easier or anything like that but there is less pressure to perform in these games.

“It makes it that bit easier for fellas who would be under more pressure to do well with their own counties. I’m not saying lads don’t care but you can often find they’ll play better when they’re more relaxed.”

This past week, Munster manager O’Sullivan said he had no worries about the fact four of the six provincial teams are in Division Four.

Similarly, O’Connor isn’t concerned in the slightest that their pick is poorer than the other three teams. He has seen first-hand what players from the likes of Limerick are capable of in a Munster jersey. “I suppose in the league you don’t know how some teams are treating it, whether they’re serious about promotion or just experimenting for the Championship.

“There isn’t a whole lot between the teams. Confidence plays a large part. That and a bit of strength is probably all they’re lacking. But you play and train with these players from so-called weaker counties and you realise there is not much difference.

“John Galvin and Stephen Lavin would be great footballers. John Galvin would be lording it in midfield for Munster and if he was from a different county people would be raving about him.

“But because he’s from Limerick and they haven’t made the breakthrough people don’t make it as big a deal.”

Baby steps for Connacht

By Denis Hurley

Connacht’s director of hurling believes setting unrealistic goals for counties in the province is counter-productive.

Damien Coleman, who won an All-Ireland U21 medal with Galway in 1993 and represented his county at senior level, doesn’t think target-dates should be set for other sides to make the step up.

“It’s probably setting up for failure to go that route.

“If you went to Roscommon and said, ‘In 10 years’ time, we’ll be playing Liam MacCarthy’, that would put on too much pressure on. It wouldn’t be the right way to do it. It’s about small steps, given the appropriate challenges.”

Even holding a Connacht hurling championship without Galway might not be any used he said because “even among the other counties, there is still a gulf in quality.”

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