They’re under pressure on the home front, suffering criticism from all quarters, but there is one man at least who appreciates the character and commitment of several of the leading lights in the current dispute between the Cork senior hurling panel and the county board.
Len Gaynor is the manager of the Munster hurling side contesting tomorrow’s Martin Donnelly Inter-provincial championship final against Leinster in Portlaoise, and named on the starting 15 are John Gardiner, Seán Óg Ó hAilpín, Tom Kenny and Ben O’Connor, with Donal Óg Cusack, Cathal Naughton, Brian Corry and Eoin Cadogan numbered among the subs.
While Tom Kenny and Cathal Naughton started in the semi-final win over Ulster last Saturday in Fermoy, Gaynor — a former multiple Railway Cup winner and All-Ireland medallist with Tipperary — has absolutely no worries about calling on Gardiner, Ó hAilpín and O’Connor, even in these trying times for the under-pressure Cork trio.
“No I haven’t, these guys are very dedicated, they’ve turned up to all the training sessions, shown fierce commitment to the Munster cause. Even when they realised they wouldn’t be available for the semi-final match against Ulster, they still turned up for the training sessions previous to that, they were there on the Wednesday night beforehand – huge commitment from those lads. Those guys would probably have been on the starting 15 anyway for the semi-final, had they been available. As it happened, when the match was switched from Dungarvan to Fermoy it suited Ben; he was then able to play and get back to wherever he had to go.
What of Donal Óg Cusack, the controversial figure whom many see as the major driving-force behind the Cork players on and off the field. Charged by those same people as wishing to dictate team matters to the Cork county board, how does Donal take his bench-warming role on the Munster team, substitute to Munster captain and current All-Star keeper Brendan Cummins of Tipperary ? Not a murmur of dissent, says Len. “I presume he’d prefer to be starting but he’s willing to turn up anyway, no problem.”
No questioning the character of those guys then, their commitment to play? “No way, they’re 100 percent.
“The vast majority of the players, from all counties, have turned up for all training sessions — that’s the cream of Munster hurling. There’s no bother getting them to come to Thurles for training; we’ve just done the one mid-week session every week, Wednesday night, and by God they turned up alright. I’m delighted with their commitment, all of them, they’ve reacted to the call.
“They’re all very proud Munstermen, these lads.”
This isn’t to infer that Len Gaynor is taking sides in what’s happening in Cork – he was at pains to point out that the current standoff is none of his business. He was merely commenting on the Cork players as he found them.
“I have no wish to get involved in that stuff; it’s a real, real sad story, a real pity, needs to be ironed out fast, but it’s an internal Cork thing. I’m not getting involved in that, they’ll work it out themselves.”
Purely from a Munster viewpoint, however, Len is going to need the kind of powerful commitment he spoke of, not just from the Cork contingent but from the four Tipp lads (Cummins, Conor O’Brien, Paul Curran and Paul Kelly), from the four from Clare (Gerry Quinn, Brian O’Connell, Tony Carmody and Niall Gilligan), from the Limerick pair of Seamus Hickey and Andrew O’Shaughnessy, and from full-forward Eoin Kelly of Waterford, from all those on the bench.
In that semi-final home win over Ulster Munster were far from impressive, while Leinster accounted for a dangerous all-Galway Connacht side.
MEANWHILE, Leinster manager John Conran is keeping his cards close to his chest, choosing not to reveal his team for the final. The former Wexford boss has settled on his starting line-up but in a clear indication of his desire to win tomorrow night, has decreed that it is not to be publicised.
Given that Conran is evidently attempting to keep the opposition in the dark with regard to his intentions and just who is available to him, his actions have inevitably led to speculation that he may have an ace or three up his sleeve.
Thoughts are certain to turn to Kilkenny duo Henry Shefflin and James ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick, as well as up-and-coming star TJ Reid, who are due to play for their club Ballyhale Shamrocks against Rathdowney-Errill of Laois on Sunday.
However, with Cork’s Michael Cussen making himself available for Munster’s footballers despite his date with Sarsfields’ hurlers the following day, a similar commitment by the Kilkenny trio would come as no surprise.
Connacht footballers won’t have veteran attacker Pádraig Joyce to call on for tomorrow’s Interprovincial Series final clash with Munster, in Portlaoise.
The Galway star is unavailable this weekend and this could lead to a place in the starting 15 for Mayo captain Ronan McGarrity, who came on in the semi-final win over Leinster.
O’Mahony and his selectors Kevin Walsh (Galway) and Ollie Honeyman (Leitrim) have also added Paul Doherty, Joe Bergin (both Galway) Mayo’s Keith Higgins, and Roscommon’s Ger Heneghan to the panel.
MUNSTER (SH v Leinster): B Cummins; C O’Brien, P Curran (all Tipperary), S Hickey (Limerick); J Gardiner (Cork) G Quinn (Clare) S Óg Ó hAilpín; T Kenny (both Cork), B O’Connell (Clare); P Kelly (Tipperary), T Carmody (Clare), B O’Connor (Cork); A O’Shaughnessy (Limerick), E Kelly (Waterford), N Gilligan (Clare).
Subs: D Óg Cusack, C Naughton (both Cork), L Corbett, (Tipperary), D O’Grady (Limerick), D Fanning (Tipperary), B Bugler (Clare), E Cadogan (Cork), S Callanan (Tipperary), B Corry (Cork), P Donlon (Clare).
MUNSTER (SF v Connacht): P Fitzgerald (Tipperary); D Duggan (Cork), J McCarthy (Limerick), P Reidy (Kerry); T Ó Sé (Kerry), S Lavin (Limerick), T O’Gorman (Waterford); J Galvin (Limerick), N Murphy; P Kelly, D O’Connor (all Cork), M O’Gorman (Waterford), D Goulding, M Cussen (all Cork), I Ryan (Limerick).
Subs: J Hayes (Clare), E Rockett (Waterford), S O’Donoghue (Cork), L O Lionnain (Waterford), R Costigan (Tipperary), A O’Connor (Cork), M Crowley (Limerick), T O’Sullivan (Kerry).
CONNACHT (SF panel v Munster): D Clarke, T Cunniffe, P Gardiner, J Nallen, R McGarrity, A Moran, P Harte, A Dillon, C Mortimer, K Higgins (all Mayo); G Bradshaw, D Blake, P Doherty, G Sice, J Bergin, D Burke (Galway); C Harrison, D Kelly (Sligo); M Finneran, S McDermott, C Cregg, S Kilbride, G Heneghan (Roscommon); E Mulligan, D Maxwell (Leitrim.)
LEINSTER (SH v Munster): TBC
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