Ó hAilpín ‘living in the now’, open-minded on midfield deployment

“All I’m doing is living in the now” is the message from Seán Óg Ó hAilpín as he embraces his new midfield berth.

Though he has been pushed back to his customary wing-back slot for this weekend’s clash with Kilkenny, he believes the open plains of midfield is more suited to someone with experience of the position.

The Na Piarsaigh man has spent time at midfield for his club and he’s played there for the full 70 minutes in each of Cork’s opening three games but it’s no easy gig, he admits.

“Tough enough for a 34-year-old!” he laughed about his recent appearances there. “It’s a release from half-back but I don’t know what my role will be for the year, I’m just happy to get a gig every week.

“It’s a new position and a fresh challenge for me from the mundane position of half-back, where you have to stay much tighter.”

When Brian Corcoran returned in 2004, he had been given undertakings from Donal O’Grady that he would be moved into the forwards.

Ó hAilpín was in the dark about Barry-Murphy’s midfield plans for him.

“I’d no indication whatsoever. I was first of all grateful to get an opportunity and then midfield was like, come in, see how you get on and we’ll take it from there.

“I played there in a few challenge games but long-term I don’t know how that’s going to pan out come summer. All I’m doing is living in the now.”

There’s a theory that by exposing him to the most active part of the pitch, Jimmy Barry-Murphy is getting rid of the weeds that had undoubtedly grown in Ó hAilpín’s game after his dormant 2011 season.

“Was I rusty coming back? Hell yes and I would have noticed it at training, the first month back. Maybe it’s helping fine-tune me.

“Up to now I thought midfield was literally a link-man but it’s a very specialised position and you need to have some experience playing there and quite a lot of it to cut it at senior inter-county level.”

Ó hAilpín will start at right wing-back this weekend against Kilkenny, perhaps in an effort to curb their aerial threat and the veteran is enthused about the game —with the carrot of a semi-final dangling in front of them.

Everything is geared towards that late Sunday in June when they face either Limerick or Tipperary and sustaining the confidence from the earlier league wins is the key.

“They don’t get any bigger or harder than this weekend’s game. We’ve had a very good start, regardless of opposition.

“The Dublin game was a bloody hard game, very tough, hand on heart we were lucky to get a result from that but the real test for us in the league is going to be the next two weeks… and last week too.

“We’ve learnt a hell of a lot from last week. At the moment Cork are at transition stage, where management is trying to blend a few of the experienced fellas left with the influx of new players.

“Ideally, we need every confidence-booster going, which is why those early wins would have been key for us, for team morale and development. We’re all on a new train now.”


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