Anthony Nash knows there have been questions and conspiracy theories, writes Brendan O'Brien.
Chief among them was why he had been named in the Cork team to start against Kilkenny last Saturday — hours after his All-Ireland Club IHC semi-final with Kanturk that was being played 210km away— when John Meyler had a perfectly good deputy available in Patrick Collins?
What sort of message, some wondered, did that send?
Meyler had already dealt with all that after the defeat of Kilkenny, explaining how Nash was selected and then eventually stood down over concerns about the possibility of a late venue change for the Kanturk game and the potential need for extra-time.
As it was, the goalkeeper scored a penalty goal in Kanturk’s defeat of Armagh’s Middletown Na Fianna and then made it from Newbridge to the Rochestown Park Hotel to meet his Cork colleagues before the panel headed for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“I just wanted to play hurling and felt I was able to do both,” said Nash. “Both managements backed me. The way it went I was able to concentrate on Kanturk but I said I would still like to be part of it (Cork) and come down anyway. They were grand about that too.
“It was all on me. There was a lot said: That John made me or whatever. I just wanted to. My friends on the Kanturk team understand the way I am with hurling. I want to play every match I possibly can. I have waited long enough to be playing those games.”
He was, lest we forget, 27 before a slot opened up in the nets with Cork on a regular basis so Nash was always going to strain every sinew to feature for his county under lights at the new Páirc in a competitive game.
Especially with Kilkenny coming to town. “Maybe it’s a childish thing, I don’t know, but I just want to play.”
All of which is easy to empathise with and yet the uncertainty and the signals it sent, unintended though they would have been, was not exactly ideal for Collins as the former Cork U21 captain contemplated his big audition.
None of which is Nash’s fault.
“I don’t see any badness in it, like. I played for my club, gave everything. If it was ever going to hinder my performance for my club I would never have done it. I just wanted to be involved. Simple as that.”
In the end, Collins delivered and Nash was in no way surprised.
“He’s a very good keeper and management wouldn’t pick him if he wasn’t. He’s a lovely fella underneath it all too. We have a good relationship as friends.
“I would have had that relationship too when I was learning off Mark Coleman and Dónal Óg (Cusack) and Paul Morrissey. But he’s brilliant. He’s shown over the last few years with the U21s how good he is.”
It was a night of positives for Cork who marked their first competitive game in the redeveloped stadium with a three-point win but Nash echoed Meyler’s conclusion post-match that it amounted to two league points.
A good start and little more.
Next up for the county is a visit to Meyler’s home county of Wexford. Any temptation to double up on Nash’s part has been nipped in the bud by the fact that Kanturk’s decider against Ballyragget of Kilkenny will start in Croke Park just as that tie is finishing.
It’s a remarkable journey for the Duhallow side, one that is flying the flag for hurling in football territory, and Nash can’t help but frame it through the prism of their nearish neighbours Newtownshadrum who were All-Ireland champions in 2004.
Kanturk were just making the step up from the junior to intermediate grade around then. The first Duhallow side to make the senior hurling grade in Cork, they will meet Newtown in the opening round later this year. But not before their date in HQ.
“It will be a massive day for the town,” said Nash. “As one fella said to me there recently: The last fella to leave Kanturk on Sunday turn off the lights. I wouldn’t have dreamt of being there on Sunday. No-one did.”
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