He won six All-Irelands with Kilkenny but there was surely more in Martin Comerford, who has now acknowledged that retiring from the inter-county game in 2011 may have been the ‘wrong’ move.
Comerford was full of emotion at the time, most of it negative, after being beaten out the gates of Croke Park by Clarinbridge on AIB All-Ireland club final day. O’Loughlin Gaels had been leading and in control approaching half-time, only to suffer a second-half shellacking that day and they eventually lost by 12 points.
The double scores defeat followed the pain of losing to Tipperary the previous September when Kilkenny missed out on five All-Ireland titles on the trot. Significantly, Comerford only came on as a sub in that game after falling out of favour with Brian Cody. Thrown into the mixer, all of that combined to make retirement an attractive proposition though six years on, Comerford is still going strong for AIB Leinster club finalists O’Loughlins. As for Kilkenny, they regained the All-Ireland title just four months after his retirement in mid-2011 and claimed another in 2012.
“I just couldn’t face hurling for a while, I just didn’t have the enthusiasm for it,” recalled Comerford of his retirement decision.
“He (Cody) told me to think about it and I did for a couple of weeks and that was the decision I made. Maybe it was the wrong decision. Maybe I could have been on the panel for another few years. I was in relatively good shape but that was just the decision I made. We all make decisions in life and you just have to live with them.”
Aside from his half a dozen All-Ireland medals, nine Leinster titles and three All Stars, Comerford can console himself with the knowledge that quitting county hurling probably extended his club career. He turned 38 earlier this month but is still going strong and targeting a third Leinster club title win on Sunday, against Cuala of Dublin.
“As long as I can hold my own, I have no intention of giving up anyway,” said Comerford who noted that his life has revolved around sport from a young age. At one stage as a teenager he was a rising soccer talent and played up front with Henry Shefflin on a schools team.
“I think we played Drimnagh from Dublin in a Leinster final, they beat us after a replay. We played them in Buckley Park in Kilkenny and it was one-all. I think Henry actually scored, he was a great player. They beat us on penalties at Home Farm in a replay, I think. So we’d a good team, some good players. A few hurlers played on it, Michael Kavanagh, Henry, myself and a few others that you’d see on the scene in Kilkenny.”
Comerford was joined at a press event yesterday for the AIB Leinster club final by Cuala’s Con O’Callaghan, a young talent with a similar array of sporting interests. O’Callaghan has scored 4-3 and 1-3 tallies in his last two games for the back-to-back finalists though he was part of Dublin’s All-Ireland winning football panel all season. Naturally, Dubs hurling boss Ger Cunningham would like to recruit him for 2017 but O’Callaghan isn’t interested. “In a few years’ time I wouldn’t rule it out but for now I’m really focused on just this match coming up,” said O’Callaghan. “After that, I’ll let the new year look after itself. The U21s footballers will be back soon enough. So I’ll just focus on this and giving my best.”
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