CORK footballers will be boosted by the return of marauding wing back Liam O’Donovan this season – and the good news is he’s closing in on his comeback.
The talented Clonakilty footballer tore the cruciate in his left knee during a club challenge game last July and underwent an operation on August 14th that ruled him out of last year’s Munster championship campaign.
It was a blow to both O’Donovan and Cork as he was one of the Rebels’ top performers in 2019, but he’s on the way back to give Ronan McCarthy’s side another quality option ahead of a condensed inter-county season.
‘The likes of Liam O’Donovan, who missed last year through injury, is back in and he’ll be competing for a place. He’s not back training fully but it’s great to see him coming back from a long-term injury,’ Cork selector Bobbie O’Dwyer told The Southern Star.
‘Liam is such a positive guy so it’s great to have him on the field and great to have him interacting with the other players and the management. He is a very talented young man and we are looking forward to see him back on the pitch, whenever that is. He’s a work in progress.’
O’Donovan’s return will improve Cork’s defensive options as they plan ahead for a busy few weeks. First, it’s their Allianz Football League Division 2 South campaign with games against Kildare, Laois and Clare in May and a guarantee of at least one more (promotion or relegation play-off). Then there’s a Munster SFC semi-final in early July.
Cork only returned to collective training last week and with such a short run-in to the league opener on May 15th, getting the balance right in training is key.
‘When players were training on their own, it’s a totally different fitness compared to getting on a pitch and being competitive,’ O’Dwyer said.
‘No matter how much you do on your own or how much you do in the gym, when you are twisting and turning after coming down having caught a ball and you are hit by a guy coming at you at speed, you can’t prepare for that.
‘An important part is getting them up to a physical preparedness and you have to play all ball too because it was hard for players to do that type of work on their own. Then you have the tactical work, as well as making sure they are prepared psychologically for what we hope to achieve over the next few months. There is a bit of everything.
‘You have to concentrate on a few big rocks and you focus on what are the primary goals.’
For O’Dwyer, this is a learning curve. The Urhan man is a new addition to the Cork senior football management team, joining as a selector, along with John Hayes from Rosscarbery. Last week was a chance for O’Dwyer to meet the players in person for the first time, but he wants to make his mark too and add to the set-up. The Beara native guided the Cork minors to the 2019 All-Ireland MFC title so he’s well placed to help bring the next wave of young footballers through to senior level. He’s encouraged, too, by what he has seen so far.
‘It will be incredibly competitive but that’s the environment that you want and you need,’ O’Dwyer says.
‘Our biggest job is to make sure that we have competition for places internally and to see who is stepping up. Given the age profile we have, there will be young guys putting their hands up. We want to get a competitive edge because you need that to drive standards.’