ALL-IRELAND winner Jerry O’Connor yesterday launched an astonishing attack on critics of the Cork hurlers, expressing his hope to “make people like that suffer”.
Following their weekend defeat to Tipperary, the Rebels have been labelled as a tired team who were coming to the end of their days in the sun.
But O’Connor yesterday rubbished such claims and insisted players were desperate to get the Tipperary defeat out of their system.
When asked how the players reacted to the issue of their longevity being raised, it triggered an angry response from the former All Star.
“I’m sick of listening to crap like that to be honest,” blasted a fired up O’Connor. “Pardon the French but to be listening to the like of that...
“You have Seán Óg there, a man that has played more hurling and trained harder than anyone on the panel and he’s still raring for road.
“You tell him that he’s tired or over the hill and he’ll tell you a different story. I don’t believe that at all.’’
O’Connor, a Cork city-based Garda, revealed his annoyance at being insulted by a Tipperary supporter in Páirc Uí Chaoimh after the game and talked about how some motorists had taunted him.
“I was walking out of the field after the game on Sunday and happened to be talking to a fellow and minding my own business.
“A Tipp supporter came up and he said: ‘I think ye had better go on strike again’.
“Horrible comments like that will be kept in the back of the head again. By God if we get another chance, hopefully we’ll make people like that suffer.’’
Later he said he had heard “a lot of nasty comments” during the week.
He elaborated: “even at work, when you’d be out and about, fellows (were) roaring out windows of cars, blowing horns, waving at you. It’s part of the game. You take it on board and just remember that the next time you line out — whether it be with Newtown or Cork or whoever.’’
O’Connor was one of 11 players (including twin brother Ben) who were in Dublin for the launch of the new Adidas multi-sport garment, TechFit PowerWeb, which was demonstrated by the former IRFU Fitness Coach Mike McGurn.
He said that while a few of their players were aged 28 or 29, a lot of the team were in their mid-20’s, players like John Gardiner, Tom Kenny, Ronan Curran and Brian Murphy.
“Who can honestly and realistically say that they are over the hill. It’s easy for the man sitting in the armchair to write off players like that.
“But, they’ll be sorry come the end of the year that they have.
“When fellows hit 30 or 31, they would be thinking about it then, but nobody wants to give up when they feel they have something to give.
“And it’s long enough we’ll be sitting at home in the armchair, watching games on television and saying: ‘if only I trained harder and tried harder and stayed for another year’. We’re going to give it a go for as long as we can and then obviously you come the point where you must be honest with yourself and say you don’t have anything to give. At the moment everybody on that panel has something to give to the team.’’
Pointing out the folly of dwelling too much on a defeat like Sunday’s – “it’s always hard to take it, for a few days you get an ‘oul feeling in your gut’’ – he said that the fact of the players returning to their club for a few weeks would help them to recover quickly.
In terms of how the game was lost, he admitted that while the failure to get a score from the penalty was costly, it wasn’t the only factor.
“Towards the end of the game we had a lot of bad wides, points that you’d normally expect fellows at that level to take. That’s when the game was in the melting pot when there was only a point in it, or even when it was level. If you got these scores you might have driven on again.
“We had a couple of goal chances which we didn’t take, but we’ll take a lot of positives out of the game. Tipp have been the team of the year so far, they won the Waterford Crystal, they won the League and now they are in the Munster final and haven’t been beaten yet.’’
With Cork due to play one of the beaten Leinster semi-finalists on (Saturday, July 12) O’Connor is adamant that there is definitely a lot more in this team. In particular, he agreed that playing in front of a crowd of 42,000 in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on a very warm day was a pressure situation for the new players in the squad. “If that doesn’t bring players on and give them experience I don’t know what will.
“Obviously the qualifying route now is going to give fellows the experience they need and push on. When you are playing at a high level, these are the days you want to be playing. You don’t want to be playing National League games in February in the rain and muck in front of two or three hundred people. You want to be playing in front of the big crowds. You want to show people what you can do.
“We’re not gone. We’re still hanging around. At the end of the day we all come into the same pool and you start from scratch.
“Realistically they are two different competitions. The way you play your Munster championship doesn’t guarantee you anything further down the line.’’
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