Jerry: Time to get serious

A CRUCIAL game for Cork tomorrow in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, a rehearsal of the opening round of the championship on May 29 against Tipperary but, of far more significance for the moment, a must-win game if they’re to get their challenge for a top-two finish back on track.

Former hurler of the year Jerry O’Connor has been used sparingly so far. Youngsters Lorcan McLoughlin and Pa Cronin have been given vital experience in midfield and the Newtownshandrum star is again being held in reserve, to be introduced to the fray as needs be.

Even as he contemplates the possibilities of the weekend there is still occasion to take time out to sympathise with fellow midfielder Brendan Maher, Tipp’s young All Star, victim of a freak accident at the weekend.

“You’d have to be disappointed for any fella getting injured, that’s the worst of all,” said Jerry.

“The year is so short, all done and dusted in a few months, so to spend any part of it out injured is a nightmare. You’d feel sorry for him, but these things happen.

“You’re trying to settle your team now and in that regard I presume this will unsettle things a bit for Tipperary but sure look, they have a fierce depth of talent at the moment with the seniors and the U21s winning the All-Ireland last year, a lot of the U21s on the senior team. If any team can handle those kind of losses, they can.

“You have James Woodlock coming back after missing a year through injury and if he can recapture the form he was showing beforehand he’ll be a very able replacement.”

Jerry’s had his own injury problems over the years but so far this year it’s all been free and easy.

“Maybe being beaten early in the club championship last year gave me a chance to rest the body but Declan O’Sullivan, our physio up in Dillon’s Cross, has been unbelievable. I meet Declan a couple of times a week even outside of training.

“He’s putting in a huge effort with me. He even treats me at his own house and sometimes I wonder if I see more of him than his wife does. You’d wonder how he gets away with it. But he’s putting in a huge effort with us.’’

Declan isn’t the only one making a difference this year with Cork. On the field and off there have been changes over the last few seasons, youngsters on the team, new trainers off. It makes for a very happy camp.

“The day of the Galway game I walked into the hotel, took a look around and it hit me. The number of young faces and people are saying the Cork team is aging.

“They have freshened things up in a big way, but there’s a huge effort going into training, by everyone. The trainers are Mark McManus and Donal Burke, they do the physical side. Mark, the Scots fella, was involved with Munster when they won a Heineken Cup. Donal is from Castlemartyr, big into athletics.

“Training has been hard, very hard, but they’re getting a great response. It’s been enjoyable as well, lots of competition there. It’s great to see the young fellas there, that’s crucial, they’re the lads who will bring things on.”

A great finish to the league is in prospect. Six teams still in contention for two places with three rounds to go. This weekend too, the clock is set to change a hugely significant date in the year of any hurler.

“Definitely, ‘tis great. The ground is starting to firm up. The grass is being cut. The real signal for me is the smell of the cut grass. I love that smell. You know things are after changing. It’s time to get serious.

“This is a big weekend. Tipp are still in there. We’re in there. A lot will boil down to what happens in these games. Everyone has been beaten at least once. It was a pity the two games we lost, beaten by a point each time. We can say to ourselves we were unlucky, a break of a ball and we could have won both, or got the draw at least, but it was our own fault.

If we can win on Sunday we’ll be in pole position, so there’s a lot to play for.”

Some people are looking to ‘sex up’ the league. Former Tipperary great and long-time secretary of the Munster Council, Donie Nealon, suggested awarding bonus points for goal scoring and losing by limited amounts.

It’s something Jerry could see working.

“I think that would be a very good idea. Something like that would work, make things more interesting. It gives you a chance to get something from a game you lose, but it also gives you a chance to get something extra even when you’re winning, by scoring a few goals.”

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