O hAilpin: My place is under threat

O hAilpin: My place is under threat

One of the country's leading hurlers has conceded that his place is very much up for grabs this summer as a raft of young stars try to make their mark in the Cork senior hurling panel.

All-Star Sean Og O hAilpin has been an ever-present figure in the Cork defence over the last decade or so. But he believes that his defensive berth is under threat now - more than it has ever been in the past.

"What you try and instil is that you aren't a permanent fixture anywhere," O hAilpin said at a Guinness hurling launch.

"That's the way I've generally tried to take it, because then if you get dropped or you aren't picked, it's not so much of a surprise.

"Having said that, every player should feel threatened, more especially this year because there are young fellas coming in."

And the bank official believes that future success for Cork teams is all about the new young blood which is currently being injected into the squad.

"These were good underage players and in three or four years time you will be hearing more about the likes of these young fellas - than the Sean Ogs, Joe Deanes or Diarmuid O'Sullivans of this world - because we are at the other side of our careers.

"That augurs well for competition - the winner is going to be Ger McCarthy and his selectors. I always felt that if you could give your selection committee a headache it was a good sign rather than being on the other side.

"What it has done is raised the bar for ourselves. If we don't follow suit we'll just fall by the wayside."

One of the bright young prospects propelled into the limelight following his impressive display against Galway in the National Hurling League has been Paudie O'Sullivan.

O hAilpin is keen to stress that it would be unfair to place any pressure on O'Sullivan's young shoulders.

"I would try not to heap too much pressure on players, because there is pressure enough as it is trying to stake a claim," he said.

"Being an underage prodigy  you just want them to concentrate on the game.

"These fellas are going to have a huge impact and play their own part. I would expect the young fellas to be dragging the team  I would be expecting a mixture between experience and youth."

However O hAilpin expects a bright period ahead for O'Sullivan.

"Paudie would be there anyway  he's a talented player.

"These young fellas have shown to date that they are committed, they are willing to put in the hard work and that speaks volumes, more for me, than being an underage prodigy."

Looking ahead to Cork's Munster championship opener against Tipperary on June 8, O hAilpin hopes history will not play its part.

In the build-up to this game there has been plenty of talk of Tipperary not having beaten Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh since the 1920s, however it matters little to O hAilpin.

"It's not really a factor. Don't get me wrong, we respect the past and the traditions but at the end of the day, when the ball is thrown in no one will be thinking about 1923.

"It's 2008, there's a Munster final place at stake and that's all the two teams will be thinking about."

It is a deeply-rooted pride in the Cork jersey which far outweighs the All-Ireland and Munster medals for O hAilpin at this stage of his career.

"Any experienced fella who has been around a long time, there's one thing you don't want to lose and that's pride," he said.

"Coming towards the end of my career, to be honest, personally I don't need to win anything else. It's more than the accolades.

"It's about driving home happy five minutes after a game, being happy that you have done the job  that's what it's about.

He added: "If I can have more moments like that  spinning home after a game and being happy, well I'm delighted about that."

And the Fijian-born hurler is keen to reflect on the positives following a dismal winter which saw the Cork hurlers go on strike.

"Every step is taken in the right direction," he said.

"We're happy enough with preparations but being happy with preparations doesn't mean you are going to win on June 8.

"Even on top of preparations there has to be the will to win and it just boils down to if we want to win it on June 8  it's there for us, the same for Tipperary."

Cork expect to have Ronan Curran back from a groin injury for that Munster derby, along with Jerry O'Connor and Timmy McCarthy, so O hAilpin is happy that it is full steam ahead for the Tipp game.

"The team and the panel is starting to take shape. At this moment in time preparations have gone well and I'm happy enough. I think there are a few guys injured and club-tied at the minute unfortunately," he explained.

"We won't have some guys until about two weeks before the championship which is tough luck on them but that's just the way it is.

"Besides that, I think the management team have tried everything they can. They brought in new faces and tried guys in different positions and different formations so it won't be for the want of trying, that we won't go down on June 8.

"If with two weeks to go, if we have the full panel back and in full health, we will be happy enough."

Asked about the prospect of making an All-Ireland charge via the back door route, O hAilpin said: "Personally speaking and from the Cork management team's point of view, we don't want to go through the back door this year.

"The only way to counteract that is to go through the championship winning all of your games."

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