His was the decisive score, the goal that delivered Sars a first Cork senior hurling crown in 51 years. Little wonder, then, which of Robert O’Driscoll’s four county medals carries most weight.
Part of the Sars county minor winning panel in 2007, he was one of five players to graduate to the senior team the following summer — joined here by Cian McCarthy, Craig Leahy, Conor O’Sullivan and Daniel Kearney.
With seven minutes left and trailing Bride Rovers by two-points, O’Driscoll collected a Kieran Murphy pass and found the net with a powerful strike.
“We were over the moon to come out on top,” recalls O’Driscoll.
“We hadn’t won it for so long. The crowds were unbelievable. The scenes around the parish were unreal. I think it really brought a unity to Sars. It has kicked on from there. It was a help for the younger lads that we had won the minor the year previous. Our group had won East Cork U14, U15 and U16 titles, but we never managed to win a county. The minor win against Midleton was our breakthrough.
“You are a young fella and a win like that gives you confidence. Six of us graduated to the senior panel, we took each game as it came and before we knew it we found ourselves in a county final. We had no pressure on ourselves whereas the older lads probably did. That win kick-started everything.”
Seven years later and now 26, O’Driscoll, still holding down the right corner-forward berth, is facing into a seventh county final in eight years.
“It is a great run, but you wouldn’t be standing back admiring it. People often say to me how many county finals I have played in, but I just take it as another game. When you are finished and looking back, you might appreciate it a bit more.
“Certainly now, when you know the panel of players and the talent that is there, you just want to keep going, keep winning. It would be unbelievable to do back-to-back. We have never done that. That is one of the motivations this year. Another huge step for us would be to push on and do well in Munster.”
He continued: “We do set high standards. We do demand a lot of ourselves. For each game, the team is hardly ever the same. There are always changes. Three years ago we had a Cork U21 hurler and a senior panellist and they couldn’t make the team for a game. That keeps everyone on their toes.”
Back-to-back successes, as mentioned by O’Driscoll, was the chief motivation for 2015, but a wrong turn was taken against Newtownshandrum in the opening round.
“We always seem to struggle in the opening round. Newtownshandrum too have a knack of beating us up in Fermoy. When you are playing championship into November, lads would be still tired coming back in January and that has a knock-on effect later in the year. As long as we are still playing at this time of the year, we don’t mind.
“The replay against Erin’s Own was another big game for us. The first day they really put it up to us and almost had us. It was brilliant out of the lads the way they kept going and were able to get the draw out of it. It showed a great attitude.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved