While the rigours of the Dublin senior hurling manager’s job have yet to fully kick in for Ger Cunningham, he remains busy in his other sideline role, that of guiding the hurlers of UCC.
Tonight, UCC face Cork in the third annual Canon O’Brien Cup — the first since the Canon’s passing in November.
Cunningham admits there is an extra significance to the game, which has a 7.30pm throw-in at the Mardyke.
“From a UCC point of view, it’s great to recognise the Canon for his contribution to the college and to Cork,” said Cunningham, goalkeeper when the Canon led the county to the 1990 All-Ireland.
“The first two were held when he was alive and this time it’s different, given that he recently passed away but it’s nice to be able to keep his memory alive.
“It’s a very fitting way for him to be remembered, two of the teams he was most closely associated with playing each other, and obviously it helps in the two teams’ preparations then too.”
It’s a quirk of the fixture, given the teams involved, that many of those in the UCC colours are trying to impress Cork manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy and his selectors too.
“They’re trying to balance a few things,” Cunningham said.
“They’re trying to impress to get on the UCC team for the Fitzgibbon and then a lot of them are looking to make the Cork panel too.”
During his tenure in charge of UCC, the Canon won 10 Fitzgibbon Cups in 11 years, including an eight in a row. At the end of this month, Cunningham and his side will begin the quest to make it three wins in four years.
“That’s the bigger picture from our point of view,” he said.
“All our preparations are geared towards the Fitzgibbon and that starts for us on January 29 so that’s our main aim.
“Potentially half our panel are involved with inter-county teams so it can be difficult to get together, which is why it’s great to have an opportunity to have a game like this.”
Cunningham is helped in having worked with practically all of the UCC panel in his previous, highly-successful, role as manager of the college’s Freshers team.
“It does get me introduced to them and vice versa, so it’s good from that point of view.
“I’m not starting from scratch and they know the different things that’ll be expected.”
Cork have had to make two late changes, with Damien Cahalane and Patrick Cronin coming in for the injured pair of Stephen McDonnell and Jamie Coughlan.
CORK: A Nash (Kanturk); C Joyce (Na Piarsaigh), C Barry (Castlelyons), D Cahalane (St Finbarr’s); C Murphy (Mallow), L McLoughlin (Kanturk), A Walsh (Kanturk); D Kearney (Sarsfields), P Cronin (Bishopstown); S Harnedy (St Ita’s), B Cooper (Youghal), B Lawton (Castlemartyr); D McCarthy (Ballymartle), P O’Sullivan (Cloyne), P Horgan (Glen Rovers).
Subs: P Collins (Ballinhassig), W Kearney (Sars), S O’Donoghue (Inniscarra), B O’Sullivan (Fermoy), P Haughney (Midleton), C McCarthy (Sars), S Moylan (Douglas), L O’Farrell (Midleton).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved