Oisin O'Rorke happy to put club before county
By John Harrington
After a unhappy patch in his career, Kilmacud Crokes star Oisin O’Rorke is hurling with a smile on his face again.
Being released to the half-forward line at club level has allowed him to show his full repertoire of skills and to be become a much more influential presence on the pitch.
He’s now a creator as well as finisher, and he’s still racking up some big scores as a personal tally of 1-31 (1-7 from play) in his last three matches testifies to.
You tell him he looks like he’s enjoying his hurling again and he quickly answers in the affirmative.
“Yeah, definitely. Really enjoying my hurling at the moment. It's kind of a new role I've been playing for the last two years now around the middle. It gives me a bit more space and a bit more freedom to go where I want and pick up ball where I need to.
“In 2019/2020 I was being marked out of games at times and I think that's what the management felt as well. I think this new management team came in and said they'd try me around the middle of the pitch and I think it's going well.
“Sometimes you can find yourself out of games but you always have that freedom to go where you want and go where you feel you can do the most damage so, yeah, I'm enjoying it.”
On current form, O’Rorke certainly looks like he could do a good job for the Dublin hurlers in 2023.
But after opting out of senior inter-county hurling this year because he was no longer enjoying the experience, he doesn’t know if he wants to go back.
“I'm not sure, to be honest. My last year or two with Dublin I didn't enjoy it too much. I said I'd just go back to the club and really focus on that. I'm enjoying my hurling again since that happened. Especially this year I've had a full year with Crokes and it's been my most enjoyable year playing hurling.
"I suppose it (inter-county hurling) was throughout the Covid time as well, so there's a fair bit of individual training, a lot of hard slog and running by yourself in the pitch black. And then when I came back, I was in good shape and fit but didn't get much of a look in throughout those games at all. It was a condensed league and I didn't get much game time.
"It was the lack of games really that killed me. There was one stage where I didn't play a full game in something like nine or 10 months. So, I said that I wasn't letting that happen again and I actually came back to Crokes nearly unfit from the county set-up because I wasn't playing any matches. I just want to make sure I play as many games as possible and enjoy my hurling.”
The brand of hurling that Crokes are playing this year is getting the best from a clever, skilful player like O’Rorke.
An influx of younger players into the team this year and a few positional switches means they now play a faster, more expansive brand of hurling than they did previously.
“A few things changed in the last year,” says O’Rorke. “The first thing was personnel, four or five lads through different reasons weren't around either through retirement, injury, or moving away. So we had to throw a fair few young lads into their positions or change the positions of some lads around.
“The likes of Daire Purcell was corner-forward and has now gone midfield. Brian Hayes was corner-forward and he's gone midfield as well. The personnel change has been quite big but the lads have taken to it like ducks to water.
“Another thing we said we'd try to do this was mix our game up a bit more. Last year we were a bit too reliant maybe on Alex Considine and Ronan Hayes inside winning their own ball and doing all the damage. Whereas this year we spread the scorers around a bit more and worked and run the ball. It's going well at the moment being able to mix it both ways.
“I think the way the team plays this year seems to suit the kind of player we have as well.
“Kind of smart, fast, good hurlers, looking for the space the whole time. We're all playing to each other's strengths so it helps when the other lads are playing well around you as well. The whole team is contributing in that aspect.”
As good as Kilmacud Crokes have been on the way to Sunday’s AIB Leinster SHC Final, they’ll go in as rank underdogs against reigning champions Ballyhale Shamrocks with their galaxy of Kilkenny inter-county stars.
O’Rorke is adamant though that the Dublin champions don’t fear the challenge, and are fully convinced they can pull off an upset.
“There's no point turning up if you don't think you're going to win,” he says. “We said literally straight after the game on Sunday when we got the win, we had a chat on the pitch after, and we said we had to make sure that we're coming back next week for one reason and that's to make sure we walk up the steps and lift the trophy.
“We're a very driven team and we set goals for ourselves. Our main goal this year was winning Dublin but going on from that we said there's more silverware to win this year. We're there definitely to get a good performance out of ourselves and get out on the right side of the result at the end on Sunday.”