'I think this will be a cruel summer for footballers' - Ó hAilpín
SEÁN ÓG Ó hAilpín is predicting a "cruel" summer ahead for the Cork footballers.
The retired dual star may be primarily known as a Leeside hurling legend, but he also devoted several years to the county footballers and fears that they are no longer even the second-best team in Munster.
"Once upon a time it looked like Cork football would be on the crest of a wave because we had dominated the U21 Munster for so many years against the old nemesis, Kerry. Surely you thought things would look healthy, but the opposite has happened," he lamented.
"Darragh Ó Sé coached the Kerry U21s for (three) years and they couldn't beat Cork - the great Darragh Ó Sé. There's more of the Kerry U21s that he would have coached back then playing on their team now than the Cork fellas."
Ó hAilpín then admitted: "Dare I say we are not even the second-best team in Munster football. I tell you now, I would put Tipperary higher than Cork and I don't think I would be speaking out of turn saying that.
"I think this will be a cruel year for Cork football. I don't think they'll make the 'Super 8s', but in the long run I think probably something like this needs to happen so Cork will go through a bit of pain.
"Sometimes people think in the championship we will get it together," he continued, "but Tipperary, for instance, have been more together and more cohesive for the last three or four years than Cork have been.
"Another thing is Cork have been playing in the league with half a deck. They haven't had the Nemo players, Seán Powter pulled his hamstring badly against Tipp, Aidan Walsh has a shoulder injury - so they were down five or six players.
"They will be back for the championship but I don't know whether that is enough to help them turn it around within the next month. I don't think so, so I think it will be a very tough year for (new boss) Ronan McCarthy.
"I think they will see some light after this year when they sit down. They'll probably take stick from the Cork public, and they'll be saying 'What's going on?' But I think they will benefit from next year onwards."
It's not all bad news by the Lee. "I think the hurlers will go long into the championship," ventured Ó hAilpín, speaking at the launch of the #AllIrelandSmiles campaign. "But for the football supporters it will be a few Hail Marys and a few Novenas on a Saturday night and see how they do on a Sunday."
Over five years on from his county retirement, in November 2012, there is one day in the week Ó hAilpín doesn't miss.
"I'm a pig in sh**e now! Sundays are glorious," he professed.
"For 15 years, Sundays for me meant either living in a hotel room, getting lambasted by a manager in a dressing-room or spending an evening chasing Henry Shefflin or Eddie Brennan or Eoin Kelly.
"Then going back on the bus for a three-hour journey, and if you lost it felt like 10 hours. You'd go home, barely get to say hello to your partner who is probably in bed ... and then the alarm rings the following morning to go into work.
"That was my Sunday for 15 years, so you can imagine my Sundays now - it's f***ing heaven! Sunday for me now is wake up, read the papers - something that we couldn't do, we were told by managers not to read the papers over the years.
"Enjoy a nice fry every now and then, hit tennis with the wife, come back, game on TV and if it was a nice day have the barbecue on. F***ing lovely. That's my Sunday now!"