Tipperary Supporters Club

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Co. Tipperary

Five games in 14 days, but Tipperary star Gearóid O’Connor says ‘bring it on’

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Source: Irish Independent

The facts and figures behind the blistering spell which Tipperary hurling star Gearóid O’Connor just put in between county and college make for extraordinary reading – and by all means, he’s far from finished yet.

O’Connor is one of many inter-county stars currently walking the tightrope between excelling on the pitch during a hectic schedule while also trying to stay fit and healthy as he combines third-level action.

It is having little effect on him. Quite the contrary, in fact; the towering attacker is thriving as he spearheads the Tipp attack from centre-forward and he was to the fore 11 days ago as they opened their Division 1 NHL campaign with a comprehensive victory over Dublin at Parnell Park – where he landed a whopping 0-12 (8f, 0-1 ’65, 0-1 s/l).

Roll forward to last Wednesday night and the Moyne/Templetuohy clubman, who fired 0-8 (6f) in a man-of-the-match display, was one of the main difference-makers for the University of Limerick as they overcame some stubborn UCC resistance on home soil to book their Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final place.

With 130-plus minutes already in the legs in taxing conditions, it would have been reasonable to assume that O’Connor might be spared the entire game against Galway last Sunday in Thurles, but he played every second and delivered another inspirational display.

Yet another man-of-the-match gong went his way after a 1-13 haul (1-0 pen, 8f, 0-1 ’65), but there is little time to kick the feet up as UL face Fitzgibbon Cup action tonight against University of Galway in Doora Barefield.

It was at this stage last year UL were nearly undone by surprise packets SETU Waterford before devouring tonight’s opponents in the final and you’d think that O’Connor would bemoan his bruising schedule.

The opposite is the case with open communication lines between Premier boss Liam Cahill and his UL counterpart Brian Ryan allowing him to thrive on both fronts, although O’Connor is more than happy to miss the slog at county training this week before Tipp welcome Westmeath to Semple Stadium on Saturday week.

“I think it’s great, I don’t have to do any training on Tuesday night, so I’m missing out on all the running! Like any player, you just want to be playing matches,” a beaming O’Connor said after the Galway victory.

“And to be fair to the lads, they are very accommodating. Both sets of management are very good with linking over. I’m just happy to be playing these matches – and the more, the better.”

There is plenty more to come his way this week, but whether O’Connor will be at 100pc going into tonight’s clash is another story and should UL keep their dream of a first three-in-a-row alive, there is a quick turnaround to Saturday’s final against either Limerick rivals Mary Immaculate College or SETU Waterford.

There is a strong likelihood that O’Connor will have played five high-octane games in 14 days by the end of it all, and while he won’t complain publicly, this is surely a scenario no one should be put through, given everything that is known now about player welfare and adequate recovery time.

His UL team-mates Killian Sampson (Offaly), Mark Fitzgerald (Waterford), Darragh Lohan and Mark Rodgers (both Clare) and Galway’s TJ Brennan have been similarly busy during a period where seasons can go up in smoke at the pull of a muscle.

Cahill will be watching through his hands, hoping O’Connor comes through unscathed, especially after one of the worst weekends in recent memory for the dreaded hamstring.

The snipers were out in force around the country as the likes of Cork’s Robbie O’Flynn, Waterford’s Stephen Bennett and the Tipp duo of Bryan O’Mara and Jake Morris got taken out with varying degrees of hamstring injuries to leave their league campaigns in some doubt.

Should O’Connor pull off a third Fitzgibbon Cup title in as many seasons and remain in one piece, he has little left to prove for the remainder of February with a break the order of the day.

He’s at 1-33 and counting in his last three games and that form shows no sign of slowing down in what could yet go down as one of the most productive fortnights in GAA history.

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