Aisake keeping feet on the ground

WHAT a difference 70 minutes makes.

Long and loud were the calls to drop Aisake O hAilpín from Cork’s starting 15 after his stuttering performance against Galway in the NHL final. Whither now the critics?

A stunning display on the edge of the square against Tipperary two weekends ago was enough to see him named Vodafone hurler of the month for May yesterday and GAA president Christy Cooney even mentioned him in the same breath as Ray Cummins.

“I won’t get carried away,” O hAilpín said. “Things went well for me on the day. It was my first game this year in the championship so I was just lucky to get the opportunity to wear the jersey. As the summer goes on I hope to see myself progressing even more.”

It was, all in all, a very satisfactory day for the entire O hAilpín clan as Setanta played a key role for Carlton in the AFL and Seán Óg ridiculed the mushrooming reports of his demise as an inter-county hurler.

“It’s funny. Seán Óg is probably one of the fittest on our side and I never doubted him for one second. Even outside of being my brother, he’s been around for 10 years, 12 years. Other lads that have been around that long know what championship is about and I was just happy that things went well for him and for the team again.”

If there was one potential cloud on the horizon recently, it was Anthony Tohill’s insistence last week that he would only be considering people playing inter-county football – or AFL – for his International Rules squad later this year.

That appeared to be a blow to O hAilpín, who declared not so long ago he would dearly love the opportunity to feature in an Irish jersey alongside his brother Setanta, with whom he spent so much time in Australia on Carlton’s books.

“Ah no. I’m sure there are plenty of footballers out there to actually fill the panel. No, I wouldn’t be disappointed at all. I’m just concentrating on the small ball.”

If he is to be believed, he doesn’t look back either. Though the newspapers have been brimming with tales of his derring-do against Tipp, he claims a preference for match stats and DVDs. Onwards and upwards.

At 6’7”, he has always stood out, but his devastating contribution two weeks ago in Páirc Uí Chaoimh has ensured he will be a marked man for the remainder of Cork’s stay in this year’s championship.

Mention Kilkenny and All-Irelands and he switches the focus immediately to Limerick and the county’s upcoming Munster semi-final. Just about everyone has already written off Justin McCarthy’s men but O hAilpín knows he can’t indulge such thoughts.

“I don’t think our focus will change one bit. We’ll be mentally prepared for a tough game. Limerick are a proud hurling county and we did play them in the league and they did put it up to us so we’re under no illusions at all.

“It’s going to be a tough game. It’s Munster championship and there’s a lot at stake.”

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