O’Neill was responding to Derek Kavanagh’s column in thewhich claimed that Cork’s relegation from the top flight was directly linked to the county having no centre of excellence which would serve as the footballer’s permanent home. The team had only seven field sessions between January and February and were forced to go cap in hand to several clubs when seeking a pitch for training throughout the spring.
When quizzed on whether or not their relegation to Division 2 was related to their training pitch woes, O’Neill replied: “It didn’t help, certainly.
“I know Derek has a very strong opinion on it. He is very passionate about it. I have been involved with Derek with underage development squads and I know the frustration from that side of it as well. My response to it is that [not having a set base] did not help, certainly. I have to add that I am not going to blame others for anything we do. We will take responsibility for everything we do. That all lies on all of us. We will take responsibility for [relegation] but [having no base] certainly did not help.”
The county’s footballers have taken up residence in Páirc Uí Rinn since the players returned from club duty three and a half weeks ago. O’Neill said it is “wonderful” to have the one home as they ramp up preparations for the trip to Thurles for their Munster semi-final meeting against Tipperary the weekend after next.
“It has been a great relief to come in here. The pitch in here is in good condition. CIT have been very good to us too. We got CIT for a good run of time. It goes back to the age-old thing; this pitch here in Páirc Uí Rinn is under the control of the County Board and therefore we have access to it. That is what we want. It has been wonderful coming in here because it is a good environment for the lads.”
O’Neill reported a relatively clean bill of health for the Tipperary game, although there are slight concerns over defenders Eoin Cadogan and James Loughrey. “Most fellas are coming around. Eoin Cadogan is coming back. He played a little bit with Douglas at the weekend.
“We’ll suss him out over the weekend and see how that goes. He had flaring on his Achilles and it just needed rest. It is nothing more severe than that. It just needs rest.
“James Loughrey had a hamstring twinge. But he looks like he is coming back. We are getting there.”
Alan O’Connor, Paddy Kelly and Donncha O’Connor have returned to full training; all three players missed the entire league with injuries. Fintan Gould (calf) has also returned to full fitness.
“They are just getting miles in the legs. It is the right time of the year for everyone to be coming back. The weather is good. They are all going in the right direction, thankfully. They are just getting up to that pace now. That is the challenge for them now to make up that little bit of lost time.”
The Cork selector said goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran is in contention for selection despite rumours surfacing following their training camp to Portugal that he, along with Michael Shields – the defender is suspended for the Tipperary game – had been thrown off the panel for a breach of discipline.
“Everybody is contention. Ken will be looked at like everyone else as the year goes on. We are very cognisant of the fact that people need to be playing games. Guys were coming in and they weren’t getting game time [during the spring]. They went back to their clubs and they got game-time. We are really keeping this as fresh as we can, and keeping the competition as high as we can.”
To this regard, U21 players Stephen Cronin, Sean White, Michael Hurley, John Mullins, Kieran Histon and Kevin Flahive have been training with the panel in recent weeks, so too has Sean Powter, though last year’s Cork minor captain is unlikely to be part of the squad for Tipperary given he starts his Leaving Cert next Wednesday.