December Road: Cillian O’Connor started young when it comes to big hauls

Seán Moran takes a look at the build-up to the hurling and football finals

Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor, readying himself for a fifth All-Ireland final (sixth, including the 2016 replay), took time out to receive his PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month award for the All-Ireland football semi-finals on Thursday.

Last Sunday against Tipperary at Croke Park he set a new championship scoring record with 4-9, 4-3 from play – not however a career highpoint.

"There was definitely an under-12 game that finished about 12-12 to 8-9 and it was against Davitts. Boyler [Colm Boyle, Mayo's flinty defender] wasn't playing now – he's about seven years older than me! I think I got more in that game but there was no one to record it, I'm afraid. It's a figment of my imagination when no one can verify it!"

Did he score the full 12-12?

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“No, 6-12!”

Right track, wrong grip

Lots of talented athletes have been lost to hurling and football over the years, sometimes vice versa, only Thomas Barr, European bronze medal winner in the 400m hurdles, says he knew early on his Waterford roots would have great bearing on his chosen sport.

“When we were younger our parents encouraged myself and Jessie [his sister] to play every sport, as well as PE in school. I gave everything a go, but hurling was just something I couldn’t manage. I held the hurley the wrong way. I held it like a golf club and apparently that was the wrong hand on top or bottom, so it wasn’t one for me.

“At the moment because I am living in Limerick and from Waterford there is no hiding from it. So, there is a lot of hype this week. But I am indeed still a Waterford supporter, to the core.”

Quote of the day

“That would be a massive mistake. It would be an unforgivable mistake if they don’t leave the players come to the final, unforgivable. If they don’t leave the players come for the final that would be a real travesty, an absolute travesty,”

– Limerick manager John Kiely, speaking after the semi-final win over Galway, on the need to allow the full 36-player panel attend the All-Ireland final. Government gave the green light the following day.

Number: 1

There have been four senior finals between Limerick and Waterford, three Munster and last year’s Allianz Hurling League. Waterford have won only one, the 2007 Munster final – and Limerick overturned that within two months in an All-Ireland semi-final.

Awards season

The PwC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month award has had to be expanded to fit into the new season, which has barely covered a month and a half but already has returned three winners for October, November and this week a separate award for the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Waterford's Stephen Bennett picked that up for his tour de force against Kilkenny. He joins Sunday's opponent Gearóid Hegarty and Clare rain maker Tony Kelly, who were previously honoured.

With one very significant match left, the three award winners to date make a fairly plausible short list for the 2020 Hurler of the Year.