Dalton and O'Flynn can use early season games to cement their positions in Cork hurling team

Dalton and O'Flynn can use early season games to cement their positions in Cork hurling team

By Peter McNamara

He may not have scored in open play in the Co-Op Superstores Munster SHL encounter in Cusack Park, Ennis, last Saturday, but Declan Dalton reiterated his potential to become a senior inter-county star of the near future, against Clare.

John Meyler will be keen to bolster Cork’s offensive options this term, and Dalton could prove to be the man that makes a significant breakthrough in 2019.

It may have only been the Munster SHL, but for Dalton to provide leadership for the Rebels from placed balls, bodes well.

The Fr O’Neill’s youngster registered 0-10 of the Leesiders’ total of 0-21, a personal return which included seven frees, two 65s and a sideline.

A capacity to raise white flags from sidelines is always an extremely welcome weapon for any player to possess and it would be a surprise if Dalton was not a major part of Meyler’s plans for the National Hurling League.

As well as those coaches working with Dalton at club level, Meyler’s nurturing this player’s qualities with efficiency.

And the more mature an individual Dalton becomes in time, it is likely he will evolve into an even more accomplished mover and shaker among the code’s elite.

He has shown himself to have all of the attributes required to succeed at the highest level and his powerful and aggressive approach to attacking the opposition will supplement Cork’s forward unit sweetly.

Of course, it is unlikely Cork’s management will expose him to the rigours of senior league fare for the majority of the upcoming campaign – that would be borderline naive as it is imperative Dalton be left to find his feet at this level over a period of time.

Yet, he should be afforded game-time in the form of a minor number of starts as well as cameo roles as Meyler seeks to integrate these less experienced performers via a protective environment which will allow them to flourish.

Dalton reminds us of a Niall McCarthy, the brilliant half-forward who shone for Cork in All-Ireland finals of the noughties.

That Carrigtwohill man was abrasive and direct and Dalton has a similar playing profile. If Dalton can go on to have a similar senior inter-county career for the Rebels, everybody will be quite happy indeed.

On a number of occasions, while speaking to both Kieran Kingston and Meyler in the last few years, Robbie O’Flynn’s name has cropped up as being player that both men feel has the scope to be superb for Cork in years to come.

In an Evening Echo interview with Éamonn Murphy last August, O’Flynn revealed how he had to develop through the grades at underage level.

Dalton and O'Flynn can use early season games to cement their positions in Cork hurling team

“I was actually only on the Cork B team at U15 and U16, Mark Coleman was the same, but I worked my way up. The team has changed over the last few years since minor. It’s about hard work, the support you get from your club, and how much you want it yourself,” O’Flynn explained.

“We only started getting to finals at U16/U17, we weren’t dominating or anything like that and then minor was a disappointment, so it's great to finally get to an All-Ireland (U21) final on a national stage. We’ve been a bit unlucky in the last few years so we’re looking forward to this one.”

O’Flynn mentioned Mark Coleman in those quotes and we all know how effective the Blarney man has been for Cork.

O’Flynn appears to be taking a little more time to adjust to the top grade, but there is no doubting the faith Kingston and Meyler have in him to continue to progress through to becoming a mainstay of the Rebels’ squad. Both the former manager and current Cork supremo speak particularly highly of him.

The Erin’s Own youngster is on the verge of settling at senior level and, with a growing bank of confidence, he can also contribute handsomely this year and beyond.

O’Flynn hit 0-2 in open play against the Banner and the more exposure he gets in this particular competition, and also in the NHL, will do him the power of good, especially if he is on form as he thrives most when he is operating with increasing reserves of self-belief.

Hopes are truly high that Dalton and O’Flynn will advance their senior playing careers in a major way over the next 12 months.

Larry Ryan’s fascinating interview with John Kiely in last Saturday’s Irish Examiner offered us further insight into the wonderful character the Limerick manager is proving to be in his spell at the helm.

Dalton and O'Flynn can use early season games to cement their positions in Cork hurling team

And how conscious he is of ensuring his players appreciate what they achieved, in the right manner, was particularly enlightening.

“I want them (the players) to be able to look back in 10 years’ time and be proud and have great memories of it. In 20 and 30 years’ time and that their families will be able to look back on this experience as something positive for them.

And I didn’t want them to say, ‘my God, that was the start of an awful time for us’.

“How regretful would that be, to spend your whole life trying to win an All-Ireland as a player. And for that to turn out to be the catalyst for an episode in your life you regret. That’s the point.

“And at the end of the day you care about the players an awful lot, and you don’t want something negative to happen to someone you care about.”

In decades to come, the current Limerick panel are bound to speak of Kiely in the most glowing of terms given how outstanding a man-manager he really seems to be.

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