Diarmuid O’Sullivan isn’t buying that line about Tipperary mortality. The All-Ireland champions might have been blitzed by Galway in the league final but the Cork selector shakes his head when you refer to that game.
Munster SHC quarter-final
CORK V TIPPERARY
Sunday: Semple Stadium, 4pm
Referee: James Owens (Wexford)
TV: RTE Two Live
“One or two defeats in what is it, 14 games? Is that a fair reflection? I don’t think we can judge them on the back of that. We’ve to get our own house in order. We’re doing our best — doing a hell of a lot — to do that, and it’s up to Tipperary to get their own house in order. We’ll look after ours and if ours is better than theirs at the end of the day, we’ll be delighted.
“Last year’s gone, it’s a day in our lives that will never come again. That doesn’t interest us. It’s gone, it’s by the bye. If I worried about all the games we lost in the past, we’d be here for a long evening. It has no resemblance to where we are now, and we have no interest in looking back.”
Still, though O’Sullivan agrees Cork have improved from last year (“I’d like to think we have, yes, absolutely”), he isn’t overrating their league win over the Premier either: “No, that’s like last year’s (championship) game. We take each game on its own individual merits — we analyse it, review it, see what we can get out of it, and then we park it. It’s gone.
“That day in the league is gone, we’ll never get it back again, so we’re not interested.
“It’s a results business. We won and beat Tipperary, but it’s game by game, week by week. That’s what we’re being judged on, what we’re judging the lads on, what they’re judging us on — when we go into the dressing room we’re looking to see if we can develop each week as time goes on. Our process isn’t going to change.”
The former Cork full back acknowledges the progress.
“There are very good positives,” says O’Sullivan.
“The group is gelling better and better as the weeks go on, on and off the field. The older lads teach the younger lads about work-life balance, a lot of them are under a lot of pressure so it’s good to see that mentoring. That gives the older lads, who have so much to offer, encouragement to see the younger lads develop, and they help to push them as high as they can go.
“There was a round of club championships on recently and we sent them back to their clubs to play as well as they could for their clubs.
“To a man they upheld that — we said to them, ‘you’re representing the Cork senior hurling panel and you’re playing well, but you have to represent your club’.
“To a man they did that, they’ve all come back to us fit and healthy.
“This time last year we were looking over our shoulders to see who was fit, but this year they’ve all come back fit, so we’re delighted.”
Have Cork upped their workrate this year?
“It’s a simple rule, if you don’t have the ball you work to get the ball back. It’s like when you’re in possession, you put yourself in the best position to give your teammate an easy pass or an easy score. It’s not rocket science.
“When you don’t get the ball, you’ve to get it back. When you get it back and something comes of it, great, there’s no big deal made of it. You can’t play without it — that’s our mantra. So when you don’t have it, you work to get it back.”
There’s work on the sideline too, and O’Sullivan says it’s “taken a bit of time” to get accustomed to the role of selector.
“It’s become more comfortable since the turn of the year. Last year was more of a feeling-out process for us all as a management team.
“John Meyler has been a big addition (as a selector and U21 manager), and we’ve gelled better as a management team — we’re doing things we might not have done before.
“Much as we analyse the lads, we’re analysing ourselves. We’re trying to improve all the time.
“We have too many of the younger lads involved with us — there’s 12 or 13, nearly half a squad — so it would have been ludicrous for us or the U21s to proceed without someone representing both. Luckily enough, John being the manager of the U21s, it makes life a lot easier.”
As for the proposed hurling championship restructuring, O’Sullivan is focused on the here and now: “It’s Munster championship time. As far as I’m concerned it’s the championship to play in. We were reared on it — I remember Seanie O’Leary saying before the 2000 Munster final how he treasured his Munster championship medals more than anything. It’s around the corner, this is where you want to be at this time of the year.”
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