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Dublin: -1°C Friday 4 December 2020

Colm O'Neill - Cruciate tips and from Croatia to Killarney for Munster final

The Cork star is central to his county’s hopes on Sunday.

Backing Club and County - AIB  launch sponsorship of GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championships Cork and Ballyclough's Colm O'Neill. Source: SPORTSFILE

FREE FROM THE curse of the cruciate, Colm O’Neill bounded into summer view in style last month.

With the benefits of a full and uninterrupted league campaign behind them, O’Neill posted 0-5 as Cork breezed past Clare in the Munster semi-final.

He’s the attacking lynchpin of the Cork team hoping to spring an upset in Sunday’s Munster final.

Yet despite bounding back to full fitness himself, he’s still a sounding board for others on the lonely road to rehabilitation.

“It’s kind of died out the last few months or the last year or so but at the start I did (get calls).

“Often there was inter county or club players just ringing to get little hints or tips.

“Podge (Collins) actually rang me about a week before the Clare match and just rang to see how I was getting on. He’s done the cruciate now at probably the worst time.

“He was just getting into championship, and to be told you’re gone, but look, I suppose we share our thoughts and maybe I can give a few pointers on what to look out for.”

Podge Collins speaks to Colm OÕNeill Podge Collins speak to Colm O'Neill after the Munster senior football semi-final Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I’m no expert either. I’m not a qualified physio so I wouldn’t know the ins and outs.

“I wouldn’t say I get sick of it really. When I did mine I was talking to Henry Shefflin, I found that a good bit of encouragement.

“He shared some ideas and some things with me so if I could share some things with other lads that would be beneficial to them that would be great.”

O’Neill has turned his back on his own injury woes and careered through the league to recapture his best form. Rifling home two goals against Monaghan and swinging over the points that downed Tyrone were his high watermark moments.

Colm OÕNeill celebrates after he scored a goal Colm O'Neill celebrates after hitting the net against Monaghan. Source: Presseye/Andrew Paton/INPHO

“This year was the most amount of league games I played competitively,” says O’Neill.

“Last year I only had a few league games under my belt but I wasn’t performing well enough in training either to get on. I started off pre-season, and trained a good pre-season.

“But it’s all about the championship. It’s championship is what you’re judged on.”

Cork and Kerry fixtures may be a staple in the GAA calendar but 26 year-old O’Neill is only getting to start his first senior bout in Killarney.

“It would be the first Munster final that I would start alright. I came on once down there in 2010.

“I was down actually four years ago now, I was about 10 yards away on the sideline when Ciarán [Sheehan] went over on his knee and did his cruciate that time. Two years ago I actually watched the match from Croatia.

“The whole experience of getting ready for a Munster final in Killarney is definitely new to me. The whole buzz to it, I’m looking forward to it.”

Ciaran Sheehan leaves the field with an injury Ciaran Sheehan stretchered off during the 2011 Munster final Source: James Crombie

Kerry will be waiting for him with a plan to thwart his attacking talents. He’s grown accustomed to having to pick at defensive locks in recent years.

“At the start in 2012 it was all relatively new to us, I remember playing Donegal in the championship and that was my first situation with blanket defence and there was a real shock in it.

“I think now at training and matches everybody is more used to it now and you’re kind of gone in to games maybe expecting to only get six, six, seven or eight touches of the ball.

“It can be frustrating at times because look, it’s been well documented now about the whole defensive structure in football and it can be challenging at times. You’ve just got to be patient.

“Obviously there’s enjoyment in it, if I wasn’t enjoying it I wouldn’t be doing it.”

When Cork’s 2014 championship adventure ended, it was on a low note. They fell just short against Mayo in a cloud of confusion over time-keeping. O’Neill was a central player but he’s parked that disappointment.

Cork players surround referee Cormac Reilly Colm O'Neill and his Cork teammates surround referee Cormac Reilly last August. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“I wasn’t frustrated, that’s the nature of sport. I don’t think the game was won or lost at that moment in time. It was probably lost ten 10 or 15 minutes before that.

“Even the ladies football-style situation where you can see (the time) clearly, you can see what’s left, which is very advantageous.

“It takes a lot of pressure off the referees, it just gives them something that they don’t have to be thinking about.

“It’s clear, everyone can see it. I’d be strongly in favour of it.”


“Backing Club and County” - AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Championship
Ballyclough are official suppliers of Colm O’Neill to Cork GAA,  who will take on Kerry in the Munster GAA Football Senior Championship Final on July 5th.
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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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