Cork hurling is on a crest of a wave right now, as the Rebels prepare for two All-Ireland semi-finals on Sunday, between minor and senior.
Following a poor 2016 showing where the senior side were knocked out of the Championship after losses to Tipperary and Wexford, and few inroads were made at underage, the outlook was bleak for the small ball in the ‘Real Capital’.
However, 2017 has heralded a remarkable renaissance, with an U-17 All-Ireland title already in the bag, and Munster titles at minor and senior to date.
Speaking to Pundit Arena, senior hurling selector Diarmuid O’Sullivan spoke of the main changes made from last year.
“Last year was bitterly disappointing for everyone. We had to reassess and re-evaluate and see where we were as a management team, see how we could proceed in the right manner. We’ve freshened things up, we’ve done things differently.
“Consistency was always a big thing we mentioned.
“We’ve been in three competitions so far this year; the pre-season [Munster Senior] League, the National “League, and the Munster Championship.
“We won the pre-season league, [reached] the quarter-final of the league, and won the Munster Championship.”
He went on to detail how the players have been allowed to thrive.
“It’s the freedom which they’re allowed play. If you stifle them, it’s very hard to let them play.
“We know the way the game is gone, it’s all about different systems, playing different systems, trying to incorporate your own system into different systems…
“Given the freedom, what they see is what’s best for the team and best for them. If they see it, don’t stifle them. Leave them go, leave them play their hurling.
“I think they’re enjoying expressing themselves, and that’s the most important thing for us.”
The county is buzzing with the success of their hurling sides at all levels, but O’Sullivan is eager to keep expectations grounded.
“There’s good optimism [in Cork hurling]. It was only 14 months ago that there wasn’t a young hurler to be seen in Cork.
“It was well publicised about the troubles we had. But those development systems were working away all the time.
“We’re coming, in U-17 and U18, they were unbelievably unlucky in the U-21 Munster final. It’s turning. The most important thing is to keep the whole thing grounded.”
Cork take on Dublin in the minor and Waterford in the senior on Sunday, as a bumper crowd is expected in Croke Park.
Diarmuid O’Sullivan and John Caulfield were speaking to Pundit Arena in association with Reardens.
Make sure to check out our big-game preview in the latest episode of The 16th Man podcast.