O’Sullivan hoping to go out on a high with Imokilly

Barring a replay, tomorrow may well prove Paudie O’Sullivan’s final outing in the Imokilly colours.

O’Sullivan hoping to go out on a high with Imokilly

Barring a replay, tomorrow may well prove Paudie O’Sullivan’s final outing in the Imokilly colours. The 30-year-old has been a permanent fixture in the full-forward line since joining the divisional set-up in 2015, but the championship restructure coming into effect from 2020 means he will not be eligible to hurl for Imokilly next year.

O’Sullivan’s native Cloyne, based on their results in the premier intermediate championship over the past four years, edged out Courcey Rovers and Inniscarra to secure the 12th and final spot in next year’s newly imagined Senior A competition.

They are one of five premier intermediate teams being moved up — included in this quintet is fellow East Cork club Fr O’Neill’s — and although the championship they will be playing in is a glorified senior B competition, given there is another tier above them, it is senior, nonetheless, and so lining out for the division is out of bounds.

O’Sullivan’s relationship with the Cork senior championship began with three consecutive county final defeats. If it is to be that his time as a top-tier senior hurler ends with a third consecutive county final win, there can be no better way to go out.

Back in 2004, a 15-year-old O’Sullivan lined out at corner-forward on the Cloyne team which contested, unsuccessfully, the Cork SHC final. As he says himself, “it was probably ridiculous that I was out there and it certainly wouldn’t be allowed these days”.

Cloyne and O’Sullivan suffered further final heartbreak in 2005 and 2006 and it wasn’t until 11 years later, wearing a different crest, that he finally got his hands on a county senior medal.

“When Cloyne got relegated out of senior [in 2012], I didn’t envisage playing in a senior county final, let alone winning one. Without a doubt, I thought the boat had sailed [on winning a county medal]”

But such has been the distance Imokilly have put between themselves and the chasing pack in recent seasons that he finds himself closing in on medal number three tomorrow.

After losing the first three in 2004, ‘05, and ‘06, hopefully it will be a case of going full circle and winning 2017, ‘18, and ‘19. It would be nice to go out on a high.

The division has served him and many others well these past few years, taking them to unimaginable heights, but O’Sullivan is honest about his excitement at returning to senior level with Cloyne.

“Every club wants to be up senior, there is no point saying otherwise. You want to be hurling at the top level with your club. Imokilly are a separate platform for all of us players to do that. One of the things with this Imokilly team, we all openly acknowledge this is a platform for us to move up and win county titles, but when it comes to playing with your club, you want to be playing at the top level.

“Unfortunately, I will miss out going forward with Imokilly, but if I was to go out on a high, better again.”

The East Cork division are seeking to extend their unbeaten run to 19 games at Páirc Uí Rinn. O’Sullivan has been a microcosm of their consistency, finding the target in all bar two of the 18 games which have put them within an hour of bridging a 37-year gap to the last time a team managed a three in a row of Cork SHC titles. He has missed just one championship outing for Imokilly these past three years, racking up 11-36 in total.

“The Cork championship takes a lot of knocking from time to time. It is a seriously hard competition to win, it is hard to get through the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final. It is hard to keep doing what we have been doing the last three years.

“But we are fortunate with the management we have, they have kept us on our toes. In 2016, we conceded a last-minute goal to Erin’s Own and were out. It would have been easy for Fergal [Condon] and his management team to just pack up and fold it in from there, but credit to them, they got everyone back together and once you get a taste for success, it is hard to step away from it.

“You can see the hunger there, the players are willing and want to play with Imokilly. That stands to us in the latter stages of the championship. Skill will only get you so far at the end of the day, you have to want to win it.

“At this time of year, lovely hurling will only get you so far. You have to be willing to put the shoulder to the wheel, really dig in, and want to win it. Last two years, we’ve done that. Hopefully again this year, it will come good for us.”

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