Ó hAilpín says Cusack and Gardiner still have more to offer
Cork legend says experience is needed
Donal Óg Cusack, Sean Óg Ó hÁilpín and Diarmuid O'Sullivan in the stands at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Inpho/Morgan Treacy
He’s come to terms with the end of his own hurling days, not that he completely misses them, but Seán Óg Ó hAilpín is still questioning the sense of Cork letting go of the likes of Dónal Óg Cusack and John Gardiner.
Gardiner’s omission from the panel is “extremely harsh”, while Cusack’s continued involvement should have been a “no-brainer” – Ó hAilpín qualifying both those comments by agreeing he’d soldiered for many years with both men and understands why manager Jimmy Barry Murphy is looking towards the bigger picture.
“Fellas that have been there 10-years plus, to be all of a sudden told they are not wanted anymore, that is tough,” says Ó hAilpín. “But then not many people get to finish their playing career on a happy note, or the way they wanted.
“But with John Gardiner I would have thought it was extremely harsh. John is physically still in good shape. It’s just a small bit baffling why he was just not even considered being kept. It’s not like Cork are top heavy with experience at this moment, especially in the back line. I would have felt John had at least another two, three years easy in him, if not a starting place then just to be there. Niall McCarthy is another fella that would be handy to have up in the forward line.
“And in Dónal Óg’s case, not to keep him, someone to push Anthony Nash, because that’s the way competition should be. Dónal Óg would have been the perfect foil for Anthony Nash, to keep him on his toes. Dónal Óg is the kind of beast that wouldn’t want to settle for number 16. He’d be pushing for the number one spot. For that reason alone I thought it was a no-brainer to keep Dónal Óg.”
Cusack, now turned 36, was let go by Barry Murphy at the start of the year, while Gardiner, just turned 30, was omitted from the panel last November. Cork have had a good start to the league but lost their unbeaten run to Clare at the weekend.
Ó hAilpín called time on his own career last November, having been dropped himself by previous manager Denis Walsh, before Barry Murphy brought him back in for 2012. He understands the manager must look to the future.
“It’s important for players, management and administrators to realise there’s no one bigger than the Cork brand. We didn’t finish off our career on a high note but you just have to park that bitterness aside and basically just support the Cork cause.”
Ó hAilpín has resigned himself to his new role: “ I am still involved with Na Piarsaigh. It’s not as intensive as county level, but you’re out twice a week. But sometimes with work, working late, some evenings you just say ‘nah’, and head home. Whereas for the last 15 years you would never have done that. But I always will miss it . . . Could I have got more out of myself? Probably not. But have I missed it this winter? Not at all, for some strange reason.”
l‘Ó hAilpín was speaking in Dublin as an ambassador for the 2013 An Post Cycle Series, a five-event series taking place across the country between May and September, including the Rebel Tour of Cork: full details can be found at www.anpost.ie/cycling