‘Absolutely unbelievable... what a player’

Conor Lehane, that was the name on everyone’s lips after this Cork SHC final in Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.

“Ah he’s an absolute superstar and he’s shown that all year — it’s a joy to play with him,” admitted Midleton captain Padraig O’Shea.

“It’s not just his outstanding scores, it’s his work-rate, it’s what he does in training, what he says to fellas.

“He’s a superstar.”

Luke O’Farrell had a better view than most as his Midleton and Cork colleague ran up a massive 2-10 of his side’s 2-15 total.

“Absolutely unbelievable, that man has been outstanding all year,” said O’Farrell.

“He’s just gone from strength to strength with Cork and today he carried us on his back, in many respects. His free-taking was outstanding, his goals, his points. What a player.”

Both had played their part in what had been a hard-earned, well-deserved win but Conor — what can we say? What can anyone say?

As for the man himself, well, when he finally managed to make his way back to the dressing room, he proved as adept at deflecting praise as he had at scoring.

“Being the free-taker is a big boost, that keeps you in the game, keeps the confidence going and that helps.

“But it’s not all about me, no-one ever won a game on his own. It’s about the panel and it’s incredible the effort they’ve put in.”

True, yes, and this was indeed a 16-man effort yesterday (sub Cormac Walsh also playing his part), but just three of Lehane’s points came from placed balls, the rest were from play as he moved from full-forward to one corner, then the other, then out to the wings, a veritable will-o’-the-wisp.

Was he surprised Sars didn’t put a dedicated man-marker on him or was that part of the Midleton plan, to confuse any such marker? “It was and it wasn’t — we’re told to move around and it’s up to ourselves when to stay and when to go. You don’t go into a game worrying who’s marking you, you play your own game. There’s great communication amongst us all, when to make the run, and it worked out today.”

That it did, Midleton settling straight into the game, playing like veterans as opposed to youngsters, with an average age of just 23, all making a first county senior final appearance (though midfielder Peter Dowling has three Kilkenny titles).

“The last few years helped us as we lost a few vital games. It was only a matter of time before we learned from it, produced it on the big day and now we’ve done that,” said Lehane.

Midleton now face the winners of the Newmarket-on-Fergus/Sixmilebridge clash in Clare in the Munster semi-final in two weeks, and Midleton with a proud record in the province to uphold. “We’re not going to think about that just yet — enjoy the moment. When it comes around though we’ll put up the best performance we can. I’ve often read players saying how much it means to win with your friends; I haven’t felt that until today.”


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