Tipperary legend Brendan Cummins brought the curtain down on a glittering inter-county career last evening – with a record 73 SHC appearances under his belt.
And the 38-year-old goalkeeper, who won All-Ireland SHC medals in 2001 and 2010, revealed how he shed tears following Tipp’s defeat to Kilkenny at Nowlan Park in July, knowing deep down that it was his final game for the Premier County.
But there is a distinct possibility he could return to the set-up in future years — as team manager.
“It’s something that might happen down the road but I’m light years away from management at this point in time,” he said.
“I’ve seen a number of different managers but never experienced the hot seat. I don’t know if it’s for me but I’ll keep an eye on things as I go along, and try to develop my own skills.
“If the time comes, and if they want me to have a role, it’s something that I’d consider strongly.”
Cummins cited family concerns behind his decision to call it a day in the blue and gold. Married to Pamela, he is the father of two young children, Paul (5) and Sarah, who will be a year old in a fortnight’s time.
“It’s just that I don’t want to leave my family any more to give the commitment.
“The jersey means too much to do something half at it. When I’m playing with Tipp or involved in any capacity, it has to be 100% and everything else is secondary.
“I’m not prepared to do that any more. I do genuinely believe that it’s time for somebody else to take the role forward. I don’t want to stop some young fella progressing his career because I waited a year too long. I have me, my family and Tipperary hurling to think of. I’d like to think that I’ve done the right thing for all three.
“I’d like to say thanks for the support from my family, the support from Tipperary fans and from the club.
“And as I leave, our [kitman] John ‘Hotpoint’ Hayes remains the longest serving member of the panel! He looked after me right from the start, until the day he handed me my last jersey.”
Cummins made his debut for Tipperary in November 1993, in a league tie against Waterford in Cappoquin, before making his championship bow against the same opposition at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on May 21, 1995. During the 19 seasons he played, Cummins saw off a succession of challengers while, at the same time, maintaining a remarkable level of consistency.
“It wasn’t so much about competing against another goalie, the competition was Davy Fitzgerald [Clare] and Damien Fitzhenry [Wexford].
“That’s where the bar was at for me. That’s where I wanted to be, doing what they were doing. I remember in 1995, when Clare won the Munster championship, and we trained after the Munster final with the Tipp U21s.
“I met Davy when he was coming out of Semple Stadium. We didn’t know each other but I remember looking at him and thinkingthat I’d like what he had, a Munster senior medal.
“I had only just started playing in the championship that year — we were beaten by Limerick in the Munster semi-final.
“That’s where I set the bar for myself — Davy and Fitzhenry at their best. You don’t judge yourself off other goalies coming in — if you’re going to be the best, you judge yourself against the best in history.”
Cummins retires as a two-time All-Ireland SHC winner, five-time All Star recipient, the holder of five Munster SHC medals and four league titles. He’s also a three-time Railway Cup winner with Munster and on a record seven occasions has claimed victory in the All-Ireland Poc Fada competition. But when asked for his career highlight, Cummins goes right back to where it all began, when Ballybacon-Grange clubmate Michael ‘Babs’ Keating handed him his Tipperary senior debut.
“Getting the first opportunity that I did below in Cappoquin in November 1993 against Waterford — the game itself went particularly well for me.
“I’d been on the minor team and Babs took a punt on me and threw me in the goals. I found out the week of the match that I’d be playing. I met the squad in Cahir and went on the bus. Ken Hogan was a fantastic help to me that day. It looked like I could end up taking his place but he just wanted to make sure that the young fella was being looked after.
“Those are the principles that I worked on and if any goalkeeper came in after that, I was going to help him to be the best that he could be.”
Cummins, who also made 16 SFC appearances for Tipperary, knew it was time to walk away following Tipp’s 1-14 to 0-20 defeat against Kilkenny on July 6.
“It was probably the most emotional I’d been after a game. When the full-time whistle blew that day, I fell to my knees.
“I met a woman coming off the pitch, a woman from Kilkenny who wanted me to sign her daughter’s jersey.
“When she saw my face, she said ‘I’m really sorry’ because she could see the tears rolling down my cheeks.
“And while in other years, I thought I’d have another year, I felt this  would be my last run at it.
“It just wasn’t to be for us this year, but the most disappointing thing is that Tipp have lost three championship matches in a row now. That’s the thing that sticks with me over the last 18 months.
“I’m at ease with my decision. It’s sad that it has to end, but that’s the way for every sportsperson.
“You have your time, you hope you do your best when you have the jersey and I’m happy with my contribution to Tipperary hurling.”
2007 axing was biggest challenge
Brendan Cummins has described the 2007 championship season, when he was controversially axed by club-mate and former Tipperary manager Michael ‘Babs’ Keating, as “a challenge”.
Keating dropped a bombshell when he omitted Cummins from his starting line-up for the replayed Munster SHC semi-final against Limerick in Thurles on June 16, 2007, with Killenaule’s Gerry Kennedy handed his first championship start. Cummins sat out the rest of the season before the arrival of Keating’s successor Liam Sheedy, with current boss Eamon O’Shea on board as coach, led to a recall.
“2007 was certainly a challenge but I’d always preached that the team was the most important thing,” Cummins said. “Now it was my turn to practise what I was preaching. My main focus was Gerry Kennedy — he was a young fella caught in the middle of a storm. I wanted Tipp to beat Limerick and what I’d normally do with a young fella is make sure he was ready for the game.
“For the rest of the year, I just trained harder. Then I got a lucky break in a lot of ways when Liam Sheedy came in and offered me a second chance.
“I knew that if I got myself right, I’d be able to take it. Eamon O’Shea was the jewel in the crown. We clicked straight away.
“He opened my eyes to so many things about goalkeeping, even though I’d been playing for 15 years. He completely changed the whole dynamic around how I thought and prepared. He turned me inside out.
“He’d been watching me and saw potential I hadn’t seen. Probably the thing that people saw straight away was the puckouts, better movement from forwards and the ability to spot that movement. I was in control of where I was hitting the ball and Eamon treated me like a quarterback in American football. I could start the confidence flowing through the team through my puckouts.”
Brendan Cummins: in numbers
73: SHC appearances with Tipperary
16: SFC appearances with Tipperary
2: All-Ireland SHC medals
5: All Star awards
5: Munster SHC medals
4: National Hurling League medals
3: Interprovincial winners medals with Munster
7: All-Ireland Poc Fada titles
1: Munster MHC medal
1: Munster U21 HC medal
1: All-Ireland U21 HC medal
3: Vodafone Player of the month awards
2: Tipperary hurler of the year awards
9: South Tipperary IHC medals
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