Cork dual star O’Donoghue hoping to secure more EirGrid U21 glory
By Cian O’Connell
Sean O’Donoghue paused and pondered; a tough decision simply had to be made. After some deliberation O’Donoghue stepped away from the Cork senior hurling panel to concentrate on Under 21 duties in early 2017.
O’Donoghue highlights the Sean Hayes factor in why he choose to focus on the EirGrid Under 21 Football Championship campaign. “He is one of the best managers I've ever played for, he does the business when it comes down to it, but he is relaxed other than that,” O’Donoghue tells GAA.ie.
“He gets on with the players, there is something about him, you just don't want to lose for him. Whatever hold he has on the players, we just don't want to lose for him, we try to struggle through for him.
“The fact that he has been there for three years, all the lads bar the minors that came in from last year have all played for him.
“I was with him the last two years and I pulled out of the senior hurling this year because Sean Hayes was encouraging me to play football. It was my last year so I said I would give it a go because Sean Hayes has been so good to me for the last two years.”
With Kieran Kingston giving youth a real fling, though, O’Donoghue hopes to return to the senior hurling camp before the year is out. “Yeah, this was my last year at Under 21, I hope I can do whatever I need to do with the hurling after the football to try to make it back on to the hurling.
“It is my last year with the football, I was made captain and I said I would have to give them my everything. Just for the sake of the three or four months, I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think can actually win something.
“I hope to go in with the Under 21 hurlers, I will try to perform with them and with the club to try to get back into the senior hurling set-up.”
Before then, though, O’Donoghue’s thoughts are firmly on Wednesday’s intriguing Munster Under 21 decider against a star studded Kerry outfit at Pairc Ui Rinn.
Kerry haven’t won a provincial title at this grade since 2008, but they have claimed the last three All Ireland minor crowns. “We are coming into it as underdogs which is fair enough because they have three All Ireland minor winning teams,” O’Donoghue says.
“We aren't really being given a chance so all we can do is believe in ourselves that we can do it. We will go into it all guns blazing, to give it our best shot.”
Will Kerry’s recent Under 21 record against Cork, who have participated in the last six Munster Finals, matter deeply this week? “I wouldn't say so because Under 21s can be different every year,” is O’Donoghue’s verdict.
“They have three All Ireland minor winning teams coming up so automatically they are going to be favourites, they obviously have very good players as people have seen at minor.
“We all lost to them at minor so we would like to get one back on them at Under 21s. I wouldn't say it would have much bearing on it to be honest, we aren't looking on it as being our seventh final in a row or anything like that. We are just looking at Cork versus Kerry, we have all lost to them, and we don't want to lose again.”
O’Donoghue was involved when Cork lost an epic All Ireland Final against Mayo at Cusack Park, Ennis last year. “We feel in Munster if you can beat Kerry it opens up completely then. If you can beat Kerry you can beat anyone. It is probably the same in Leinster, if you can beat Dublin you can beat anyone.
“We were up a few points against the wind in the Mayo match coming into half-time, they got a few goals which set them going. They got another few goals in the second half - all from mistakes which cost us the All Ireland.
“Obviously we are going to play with that hurt this year. You have to think about the feeling of beating Kerry in Munster last year and how that felt, we have to try to play off that as well.” A fascinating game is imminent Leeside.