"You'd love to be back in that position, but look it, I've had my go" 4 months ago

"You'd love to be back in that position, but look it, I've had my go"

It's on weeks like these that Colm O'Neill really misses the buzz of it.

He's still good buddies with his old Cork teammates. He was in their position only a year ago.

He sees them readying themselves for Saturday night. He's felt the anticipation around the county, he knows what Cork Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is all about.

He can't help but look on with a little bit of envy.

"This week now though, yeah, everyone you meet is asking about Saturday night. You'd love to be back in that position, looking forward to the game...

"But look it, I've had my go and I've enjoyed it..."

He had a go alright. It mightn't have been a clean-cut go at it, but there's no denying that the Ballyclough forward made the most of it.

A much vaunted prospect since 15, Cruciate knee ligament injuries would dog him from the age of 21. He fought though, you'd better believe he fought and after doing the dreaded knee first in 2008, he'd be back winning All-Irelands in 2010 and All-Stars in 2012.

All that after another cruciate in 2011. Most players would have packed it in after doing it a third time in 2013. He didn't go away easy though and kept on coming back from the crushing blows stronger.

If anybody can, O'Neill can empathise with Tipperary's Bonner Maher.

"I actually watched the match live (Tipp v Lim) and I knew when I was watching it that he was definitely in trouble straight away.

"I knew he’d need a scan and was definitely gone but I suppose the one thing you would say is maybe a few years ago it might have been a career ending injury but not anymore. Jeez, ye hear a story every… I hear loads of stories of people doing cruciates and coming back. Look, obviously, I’ve been unfortunate enough to do three of them but every time I came back strong. Look it’s not a career ending injury, obviously, you are maybe nine or ten months out but if you know if you put in the work and get the operation it’s fixed then. As soon as you get the operation it’s fixed and then it’s just about rehab so there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel."

This man looked for every possible way.

A couple more knee problems in 2018 finally convinced O'Neill that was it. He'd done enough in his nine years though to light up Cork minds and imaginations to this very day with the mere mention of his name.

There's a bit of excitement about the under-20 set-up this year. One of Cork's most talented ever forwards is in the thick of it.

"Funnily enough, at the start of last year, I had a missed call from Kieth Ricken - he would have coached us Sigerson in CIT in 2009," says O'Neill.

"I would have known him well and he's a great coach and we had a good relationship - so I rang him back anyway and he asked to meet up for a coffee. He asked would I be interested in coming on board. It was a total shock to me first of all, obviously I had no experience in management at all. When you're with the seniors too, you're so focused, you wouldn't really know any of the players at that age, but he said don't worry about it, you're coming in with a clean pair of eyes. Look I was delighted to get involved and I'm enjoying it so far..."

It's always brilliant when a gifted player joins a coaching set-up. How do they pass on the gift?

"Obviously, as a forward, you try and maybe do more shooting drills. Maybe defending mightn’t be my forte (laughs) but in fairness to the three or four free-takers we do have, they do a bit of extra work maybe half an hour before training before everyone comes out and that’s maybe up to the players if they come in early or what. If I can up their stats some bit and maybe give them some bit of advice and maybe share my intended technique or just pass on anything. They might pick up one or two things, they mightn’t pick up anything but we’ll see as the year goes on..."

"We want to win the games but at the end of the day, it is about development and seeing players push on..."

He'd love to see a few of them make an impression with the Cork seniors in the next few years. As for this weekend, he holds out hope that the underdogs can give it a good rattle.

"Last year, the game was really over with ten minutes to go and they really pulled away so if Cork can be there or thereabouts with ten minutes coming down the home stretch, you never know, everyone likes an oul underdog story..."

In attendance at the launch of the EirGrid GAA Football U20 All-Ireland Championship is Cork U20 selector Colm O'Neill. EirGrid, the state-owned company that manages and develops Ireland's electricity grid, have partnered with the GAA since 2015 as sponsors of the U20 GAA Football All-Ireland Championship.