Diarmuid O’Sullivan: Clubs should never be without their county stars for championship

Cork hurling icon Diarmuid O’Sullivan feels the Cork Championship needs rescuing and reveals his preferred option in the controversial revamp proposals…


I’ve been an intercounty player, I’ve been involved in an intercounty management and now I’m back as a club player, so I’ve been on all sides of the fence on this.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Cork County Championship requires a radical overhaul.

To be 100 per cent honest, the club championship in Cork needs rescuing because it’s been dying a death. We don’t know from one end to the year to the next when they are going to be playing.

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People have invested time in these proposals and they’ve come up with three possible solutions to save this thing.

For me, option A, where you have one round of games in April and two in August is the best one.

The way the competition is set up in Cork means we are losing players over it. They are heading to America or going to other codes. This thing needs to be restructured in the right manner, with clubs and their players’ views been taken seriously.

Option ‘C’ should never happen

Clubs should never be without their players for championship. That defeats the whole purpose of becoming an intercounty player, you are representing your club when you get on the big stage.

You want clubs to coach lads to become intercounty players, you can’t penalise them for doing that and that’s what Proposal C does.

I can totally see why there was such a negative response to it. We must remember that a lot of GAA clubs are very rural, they’re community-based. They need the GAA to bring lads together in January, February and March to do something.

The GAA is at the heart of every community in Ireland, and when the lights go on in January people in those places know their club is back training and it gives them something to look forward too.

There’s a bit more selfishness coming into the set-ups from the intercounty management side who continually want their players, but players still want to play for their clubs.

I’ve seen it and I’ve had lads coming to me begging to play for their clubs in league games.

It’s all very fine being involved in these set-ups, but players want to play games.

Lordly Limerick are ahead of the pack

It’s easy to get carried away with Limerick, but people must remember it’s not August.  There was no All-Ireland handed out on Sunday, but they’re a bit ahead of the chasing pack now.

They’re the first team since Kilkenny in 2013 to win a National League off the back of winning an All-Ireland the previous year. That’s a great achievement.

John Kiely will be more than pleased with what he has got out of the League. They’ve used 33 players in the League and won it! That’s some going.

People will be looking at Limerick through a microscope now, to see what they are doing and to see if their team can catch-up to them.

My mantra as a coach would be we know what our strengths and weaknesses are, leave other counties to be looking at that. While they are busy doing it, let’s get better at what we do as a team.

Let’s get physically stronger, get our game plan down to a tee and our hurling second to no one.

Limerick have ticked all those boxes this year and that’s a very hard thing to do.

The Treaty County are getting stronger, their game plan is evolving and they’re continuously improving. At that rate of going, you’d have to make them favourites for this year’s All-Ireland title and you’d be foolish not to.

Cats are waiting in the long grass

If I had to do power rankings, I’d go Limerick number one, Galway two and Kilkenny at number three.

I reckon Kilkenny are in a far stronger position than people think heading into this summer’s Championship. They’ve got the Ballyhale Shamrocks lads back in the squad now and that will re-energise them.

Ballyhale winning the All-Ireland Club Championship will galvanise The Cats and I reckon Brian Cody will be spitting in the hands looking forward to this Championship now.

As for Galway, Joe Canning’s injury is a big blow without question. But, it’s an opportunity for a guy in Galway who has been waiting for his chance to go to Micheál Donoghue and say ‘sorry, I’ve waited long enough and it’s my time now’.

I saw it happen to the Cork management under Jimmy Barry-Murphy when they had an injury to a big player before a League game and on the back of it, Seamus Harnedy got a chance.

People were asking ‘who is this guy from St Ita’s?’. No one had ever even heard of him. He got his chance and he’s become Cork captain since. Seamus is a perfect example of how to profit from an opportunity. While one door closes, it opens for another guy to come in.

Now, we don’t want to see the game without its top stars and Canning has been in the top two or three in the country for last 10 or so years – he’s been utterly phenomenal.

Other guys will have to become leaders for The Tribesmen now and we’ll finally get an answer on whether they can do it without Joe?

We’ll see what Galway are made of now. However, I believe they can step up without him because there’s serious talent in that camp.

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What do you think?