Last year’s pain was this year’s gain, claims Corcoran

BRIAN Corcoran has only one regret about Sunday’s Guinness All-Ireland hurling final – that the players didn’t have time on the field to themselves to savour their victory, as they had five years ago.

It denied him the opportunity to shake hands with James Ryall, the Kilkenny player who ended up marking him, he pointed out, or to embrace any of his team-mates.

"Back in '99, the crowd wasn't allowed on to the field, which meant we were able to celebrate, commiserate with the opposition and do a lap of honour.

"You could understand the enthusiasm of the crowd after Sunday's win, but it was bedlam. There was one guy on my back with his arm around my neck. All you could do was run for safety," he said.

At a personal level, his medal meant much more now that he's married with two daughters, Kate and Edel. And the fact that his wife Elaine had a seat near the presentation area meant he was quickly re-united with them.

"A lot of things have changed. It was great to have them there," he added.

Corcoran admitted that he knew from the start that it was a risk coming back with Cork but it never worried him. Some people thought he was mad, that he ran the risk of not being remembered for all he had achieved in the past.

"Life is about risks. The way I look at it, I had been out of the game for two years. If it didn't work out, it wouldn't be a huge disaster," he said.

"Winning was incredible. It would compare to '99, which was special because it was my first All-Ireland. The second is just as sweet.

"I played with an incredible bunch of guys. It was one of the reasons I came back. Even though I didn't say it to anybody, I was fully confident during the week that we were going to win because the guys were so up for it."

The irony of his situation having to wait seven years after losing (to Kilkenny) in his debut season was not lost on Corcoran when he thought of the players like impressive forward Kieran Murphy who won their first medal on Sunday.

"If you told me in '98 I would win two medals I wouldn't have believed you. The only reason I played senior football was because the hurling was going so bad in Cork at the time.

After we were hammered in '96 by Limerick, things looked bleak until Jimmy Barry-Murphy turned it around. Now Donal O'Grady has turned it up a notch," he said.

Corcoran revealed his only regret about his dual activity was that he played in the 1998 Munster championship without any real preparation.

"They brought me back into the panel the week before the game against Kerry and I found myself in the team not having played football in six months.

"I shouldn't have played that day. I remember Mark Landers saying to me that Cork wouldn't win an All-Ireland while I was playing football. It was probably one of the reasons why I gave it up in the end."

While he established his reputation as a quality defender in the early '90s, he would nearly have preferred to be a forward. It was where he lined out with Erin's Own the year they won their first county championship, when he scored a memorable point from out on the right flank.

"Physically I didn't think I would be up to it in the back line this time. Full-forward was the only position I could have played in."

On Sunday, he only relaxed when it was announced that a mere minute would be added on. Just after that, he scored a marvellous point from near the corner flag, after which he fell to his knees and acknowledged the crowd in a rare display of emotion.

"You don't plan these things. I found myself on the ground and the crowd started cheering and it was a case of reacting," he explained.

Saying that he had been particularly pleased for the players who hadn't done well in last year's final, Corcoran said watching re-runs of some of the interviews on video before they left for Croke Park brought it home to him how much they had suffered.

"John Gardiner, Diarmuid O'Sullivan and Setanta were being interviewed. They were talking about the pain of losing, that they didn't want to face it again. John was talking about how disappointed he was about the frees that didn't go over.

"There was no way Kilkenny could have been as hungry as Cork. They have been incredible over the last few years. Contesting six finals in seven years is unbelievable. People were talking about the three-in-row and the 29th All-Ireland, but for us it was the loss of last year.

"Basically fellows couldn't even comprehend losing a second."

Gardiner said he was delighted to get to play in another final and thankful that things went so well for him.

"It's very rare you get a second chance so quickly and we were delighted to take it. Last year, we didn't realise it but we were probably nervous. This year we were fully focused. There was really nothing going to stop us."

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