PAUDIE O’SULLIVAN is only 21 but is already in his third year on the Cork senior hurling panel – quite an achievement for one so young.
Factor in the little added detail that before he was out of minor he had already played (and starred) in three Cork senior hurling county finals with his native Cloyne and was top scorer in the senior championship for two of those seasons. With the right attitude (and he has that in spades) and with a clear run, this guy is set for a long career.
A corner-forward with a real nose for goal, another east Corkman in the mould of the great Seanie O’Leary – great balance, low centre of gravity, superb acceleration over the short distance, fast hands – Paudie will this week be doing his damnedest to win a starting place in the Cork team that takes on Waterford in the Munster final in Thurles, and give that career a real kick-start.
He’s following in giant footsteps, of course, and no, we don’t mean Christy Ring, though they hail from the same parish; we mean of course Diarmuid O’Sullivan, The Rock, the colossus on which many an opposing attack perished from 1997 to 2008.
“He decided to move on – he had his few years done for the county, he made the decision last year and I’d say he’s happy with it,” says Paudie. “I suppose it’s nice for the family that there’s still someone there, we’ve nearly all played for the county at some level (brothers Donal and Colm at underage) – I’d say the parents are proud of all of us.”
A ferocious and fearless competitor, the new compulsory helmet rule almost did for Diarmuid this year but he decided to give it another go at club level. “He’s doing well for us at full-back but he’d be handy in the forwards too if we’re stuck up there. The helmet is grand for some fellas, they have worn it all their lives, but he didn’t have it for a few years. It is probably safer for him now anyway, he’s putting his head in places where he wouldn’t have before!”
!The inter-county mantle now falls on Paudie, however, but it comes at a time when Cork finally have real strength in depth in the forwards, and in the inside line especially. In the two Munster championship games so far, against Tipperary then Limerick, Paudie has had to be patient. He didn’t start in either but was introduced in the final minutes of both; in both also, he impressed, a point against Tipperary in his seven minutes of action, then 1-1 in his 20 minutes against Limerick, his first championship goal. It prompted a soccer-style celebration, wheeling away, finger to lips in a ‘silence’ sign – the significance?
“I don’t even remember it to be honest,” he says, laughing, “It was just the moment, my first senior goal for Cork – a spur of the moment sort of thing.”
It won’t be his last either, that’s a pretty safe assumption. Question is, though, will he get his chance this Sunday? “That’s not for me to say, but look, he (manager Denis Walsh) can only start 15 and if I’m left out, I’m left out – hopefully I’ll get a run for 15 minutes or so. All I can do is train away. I have come on in the last two games now and hopefully did something that impressed Denis. That is all I can keep doing and eventually, if I get a start, I am going to have to do what I do when I come off the bench.
“The management are very good, Denis makes it perfectly clear to every player where they stand and what they can do to improve, what they can do to get on the team. Every one of us knows what’s expected, if you’re not on the team then you know why not. We have 35 fellas in the panel, and you hear it said a lot of the time that there is fierce competition for places, but I’d say this year there genuinely is.
“If fellas aren’t performing there are plenty of fellas to come in, more than willing to take their place.”
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