Asked how Cork preparations ahead of tonight’s Munster minor football quarter-final have been affected by an overcrowded spring programme, the avenues of frustration to travel down are many.
First, there was Rochestown’s run to both the Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí finals, tying up four members of O’Sullivan’s Cork team for seven weeks from mid-January to early March.
Coláiste Ghobnatán’s progression to a second successive Dr O’Sullivan Cup final ruled Dan Ó Duinnín out of the equation up until last Friday. Then there was the involvement of Shane Kingston and David Lowney on the Cork minor hurling team and the scheduling of the local U21 football championship which has robbed the Cork boss of Ilen Rovers corner-back Tom Bushe for the trip to Limerick.
O’Sullivan said the three-day rule regarding minor players is laughable.
“You can’t wrap them up in cotton wool, but there is a lot of money and effort going into coaching these guys. You want to give them the best opportunity, but that is not always the case because of the volume of matches that take place at this time of year,” remarked O’Sullivan.
“Take for example the City Division U21 football final played last Sunday. Shane Kingston, Eoin O’Brien, Nathan Walsh and Sean Powter were due to play for Douglas. We had hoped the four lads would come through unscathed, but their parents stepped in and decided the lads would have plenty of other opportunities to play at U21 level.
“For Shane Kingston, it would have been his second game in five days and then, with Wednesday’s game, he would have been faced with three games in eight days. He picked up a groin strain playing for the Cork hurlers last Wednesday and he needs to nurse that.
“Maybe if there was a free 10 days beforehand. The three-day rule is very tight. The rule book dictates lads can go out on the Sunday before a Wednesday championship game. People might say ‘you are only playing Limerick’. That shouldn’t come into it. These lads need to be minded.”
O’Sullivan called on the Cork County Board to move the U21 club championship to later in the year to ease the pressure on young players during the spring.
“The U21 club championship would be better off being run off in September. That will give the incoming Cork U21 manager the opportunity to pick up new players who are in form at the tail end of the year. Guys will be back from J1s too. It makes far more sense. I am sure Sean Hayes would tell you the same thing that the club championship hampered his preparations. Tom Bushe suffered a grade two hamstring tear playing in this competition a couple of weeks back.
“Maybe if heads were banged together and a better solution thrashed out, it would be better for all concerned.
“We’re going up to Limerick, and I’m not making excuses here, but we haven’t seen a whole pile of certain lads.
“They would come down to video sessions, but we weren’t asking them to travel long distances to stand on the sideline.
“If we have a guy playing a night before we are training, then he does not train on that night. We’d tell them to stay at home and recover. That has to be the way if we want these lads still playing football in five years time.”