O'Sullivan: All-Star forward is on the bench for tomorrow's Munster SFC final. James Crombie/INPHO
cork v kerry

Darran O'Sullivan: When we get on the bus to Páirc Uí Chaoimh tomorrow, it will be different

All-Star forward on the bench as Cork and Kerry meet for the final time before Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s redevelopment.

A TRIP TO Páirc Uí Chaoimh is never easy. The lions’ den.

Darran O’Sullivan is right to suspect that the sense of occasion will be even more pronounced when Kerry roll up tomorrow.

Once the curtain comes down on the Munster football final, the latest chapter in the tale of two heavyweight rivals, and on next weekend’s hurling decider, the Páirc as we know it will be changed forever. The long-awaited and, some would say, long-overdue €70 million redevelopment begins.

“It would be nice to put a bit of a dampener on their farewell party,” O’Sullivan smiles, “but they are going very well at the moment.”

‘They will obviously want to sign off on a high.

“Even if it wasn’t their last game there, they will want to win a Munster final at home. That is definitely one of my biggest fears, losing a Munster final in Killarney, and I am sure that’s the same for the Cork boys at home.

“They might feel a bit of pressure from it too.”

Darran O'Sullivan and James Loughrey O'Sullivan and Kerry beat Cork by two points in last year's Munster football final. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

Once upon a time it was virtually unthinkable that the Glenbeigh-Glencar man would drop out of the Kerry starting XV but this week, when Eamonn Fitzmaurice named his team with O’Sullivan among the substitutes, there was hardly a stir.

A hip injury and a hamstring tear have taken their toll and O’Sullivan is still a bit short of the standard he sets for himself.

“I am around a while and any injury I get I try to take the positive out of it and use it as a break,” he explains.

“I tend to react very quickly to training, to get my fitness up. I was the same last year.

“It’s frustrating watching.”

Much has been said and written about this Kerry team and the ‘T’ word: transition.

Of the team which started the 2011 All-Ireland final defeat against Dublin, only six line out tomorrow.

The key absentees are already well flagged: the retirements of Tomás Ó Sé, Paul Galvin and Eoin Brosnan, and the injury which ended Colm Cooper’s inter-county season before it started are old news.

Does that add to Kerry’s challenge tomorrow?

“It’s going to be different, to be honest,” O’Sullivan admits.

Even the bus ride in, you’d wander away in your own thoughts but you’d be looking around you and you’d know where Tomás would be, you’d know where Paul would be, you knew where Gooch sits, where Declan sits. You always look to the older fellas, so it will be a strange ride on the way in.

“There’s new guys coming in. There’s a change. You’d be hoping that their hunger and their enthusiasm will get you through it.

“Obviously we have missed the boys so far but you can’t keep dwelling on the past, you have to get on with it at some stage. The team has changed now and there is nothing we can do about it.”

Paul Galvin and Darran O'Sullivan James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

As always in football, as one ensemble cast departs the stage, another arrives to take its place. Now the spotlight falls on Fionn Fitzgerald, Paul Geaney, James O’Donoghue and company.

“With the group I came into and spent most of my career with, coming into games there was an air of inevitability about what the team was going to be,” O’Sullivan, 28, recalls.

It’s very competitive in there at the moment. Not only do people outside of the current crop not know what the team is going to be, but we inside don’t know what it’s going to be because it’s a very level playing field at the moment.

“There is a big change going on in the panel. Jerseys are up for grabs. It’s keeping the likes of me and fellas who have been around for a while on our toes because there are young lads there who had no medals, and that was unheard of there for a long time in a Kerry dressing room.

“Now they are hungry to get medals, they are chomping at the bit and that keeps things fresh.”

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