BY TOM LYONS
CLONAKILTY hurling manager James O’Donovan is pulling out all the stops to make sure that his charges perform in Sunday’s final.
This is the former Clon goalkeeper’s first season in charge of the club’s junior hurlers and he is keen to make sure they deliver on their talent against Ballinascarthy.
‘To me the most important aspect of this week is getting the mental preparation just right – to get the players motivated, to make them forget the tiredness, to get it right mentally going into the game,’ O’Donovan explained.
‘I’ve been involved with good Clon hurling teams in the past who have been beaten because the mental approach just wasn’t right. We don’t intend to let that happen on Sunday.
‘We know Bal will be really up for this one, they haven’t won it for 17 years and if we don’t match their hunger and desire, then we’re wasting our time. It’s as simple as that.’
Last season O’Donovan managed the Clon U21s that won the South West title and were unlucky to lose the county semi-final to eventual champions, Erin’s Own. He saw enough in that U21 side to convince him that there is a bright future for Clonakilty in hurling if those players are properly developed.
He was then head-hunted for the Clon junior job, and after agreeing, he brought his U21 management team with him – selectors Tony Anglin, Adrian White and Keith Kennedy – and then recruited Sean Twomey of Newcestown as a coach and selector.
Juggling hurling and football commitments has been a challenge for O’Donovan who saw a number of his players involved in the South West U21A hurling championship against Ibane Gaels last Saturday.
‘We played U21 hurling last weekend, a magnificent first half but a collapse in the second half, winning luckily by a point. I put that down to sheer tiredness so we have to keep a sharp eye on things,’ O’Donovan said.
‘This week is mostly about recovery, getting the players up to full energy for the hurling final.
‘They are down to play the county U21 football replay against Carrigaline two days after the final and the U21 hurling semi-final against Ahán three days later. It’s a crazy schedule for amateur players.’
Not buying into the theory that Clon got the soft half of the hurling draw this season – ‘Dohenys and St Mary’s definitely weren’t soft touches’ – O’Donovan must plan how to deal with Bal’s threat on Sunday, and the defensive system they used against Kilbree.
‘We don’t know how they will go tactically in the final,’ said O’Donovan.
‘Maybe they won’t go defensive, maybe they will.
‘The secret is to be prepared for anything and to be able to adjust to whatever confronts you on the day, to be able to think on your feet and to cope with different approaches. We will concentrate on our own game, our own strengths, let them worry about us as much as we worry about them. The sides are extremely well-matched and it should be a cracking game.’
O’Donovan has also warned his side to keep their discipline against Bal – or they will be punished by free-taker Jeremy Ryan.
‘Bal are a superb team all round,’ admits O’Donovan.
‘They have outstanding players like Ricky O’Flynn, Jeremy Ryan, Cillian Cullinane, etc. but they have good hurlers in every position. We’re expecting that.
‘Jeremy Ryan has hit huge totals in every game, especially from frees, but every team has a good free-taker these days and it’s just a matter of being very disciplined. We have drilled that into our lads.
‘We have put huge work into the hurling this year, a fierce effort, and we have gotten a great response from the players. We hope it will show on Sunday and that we can give a performance.’