Ó hAilpín hoping Cork will learn from defeat
GAA: SEÁN ÓG Ó hAilpín turned 35 earlier this summer so the end is coming. However, the folly of discarding the three-time All Star for the 2011 championship was in evidence yet again last Sunday despite Cork’s defeat to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
It might have been Ó hAilpín’s last championship outing. He has been at the beck and call of the Rebels since 1996.
Late Sunday evening he showed visible signs of pain. It was a combination of the
70-minute shift followed by the never-ending stream of autograph hunters he willingly pleased.
Then, as the Galway coach rolled past, he gave up his dinner to speak on the record. The last man standing. “This time last year I was at home on the sofa watching the game. Did I think I was going to be back? No.
“That’s a huge thanks to Jimmy Barry Murphy for giving me a shout. It was a risky call. It’s great to be back. I love playing in this place . Every time you leave, especially considering my career, it could be my last time. You just take it year by year.
“For the team, when we started the year we were sixth or seventh. We got in the last four which is improvement but when you are playing in Croke Park you need to bring it on and up another step.”
Maybe we have just seen the end of an epic career but, judging on form, maybe not. Joe Deane and the O’Connor twins are gone. Diarmuid O’Sullivan too, with Donal Óg Cusack the only other remaining from the class of 1999.
Seán Óg admitted his aching limbs were whispering to him but Na Piarsaigh need him immediately.
“To be honest, it does take the body an awful long time to recover. Like, we have club championship this Saturday and I know my body is just in bits at the minute. It will probably be Wednesday or Thursday before I pick up again and try and get myself mentally up for that club game.
“But, yeah, I’ll have to sit down with the management team to see where I go.
“Maybe, there are young fellas there, and you don’t want to be overstaying your welcome. Let the team and the fellas develop. I’m sure Jimmy Barry Murphy will sit down with everyone when the club championships are over.
“I must admit it is getting increasingly harder for the body to perform every game, year in, year out. I must say that.”
It was his physicality at wing back that proved so beneficial this season. Cork are a young team but they are also a lightweight team at the moment.
“How many did they beat us by in the end – six, seven points?”
“So, basically that’s a beating. I know in play we looked to be there or thereabouts but you look at the scoreboard at the end and it is a comprehensive beating.
“It’s no consolation but that Galway team are probably two, three years ahead in the cycle of Cork so we have to put things into perspective. In the clinches they were that bit more physical, especially in the second half it showed.
“When I look over my career it is the defeats that you learn more from than the victories so hopefully young fellas will learn. We are bitterly disappointed because we came up with a great chance. Okay, the experts were writing us off which suited us grand. Preparation had been top class. If there was a day to do the ambush today was the day.
“Look, so be it. That’s it. They had more points so whether they deserved to win doesn’t matter. But they did deserve to win. I hope they can go all the way and win the final.”
It is generally accepted that Cork are not yet good enough but the current group are all that’s coming for the time being. So they must improve.
Ó hAilpín admitted Sunday’s torment must be the lesson that lifts them to the elite level.
“We’ll see if any players from the club championship can step up but what we have out there is what we have. It is a matter of working with these fellas. I have every confidence Cork will be back in Croke Park. We’ll look at today as maybe a watershed moment. That’s all we can hope for.”