Curran at home on the big stage

RONAN CURRAN has been a fan of the Munster final since he was six years old.

“I used to love going up to Thurles, though the first Munster final I saw was the Killarney final in ‘87, when I was six or seven. Myself and my father and grandfather would head off together, tea and sandwiches in the back of the car.

“I suppose 1990 was the big one, Cork were underdogs and there wasn’t much hope for them but Mark Foley got 2-7 and Cork went on to win the All-Ireland. That’s the great thing about hurling, the uncertainty.”

You could apply that uncertainty to the semi-final against Clare, when the Banner were fancied as having a good chance against the All-Ireland champions, particularly with Ben O’Connor missing.

“It was a small bit unusual, we’re favourites going in to most games. Clare probably should have won the semi-final last year and we struggled in this year’s league – we went out to win every game but it just didn’t happen. People probably thought our performance was going to drop, but once we weathered the first 20 minutes we took over.

“Losing Ben didn’t really affect us too much. Obviously he’s one of the best hurlers in Ireland and any team would miss him, but luckily enough one or two other lads stepped up. It’s important to keep the first 15 under pressure and to have players on the bench as good as the lads on the pitch. That’s what drives you on, that kind of healthy competition.”

As does hunger. If anyone thinks Cork have lost the edge of appetite, they’re wrong.

“Nothing beats winning. Probably the best thing that happened to us was losing in 2003, because it means we know the difference between winning and losing, and that keeps you driving on. We’ve had two or three great years but we want to keep it going.”

What helps is training smart and team spirit. Curran points out that preparation for the modern game is all-encompassing but that there’s still room for enjoyment.

“Nowadays it’s more about speed and skill work, and you wouldn’t have the very hard sessions after winter. You might dread a January night or January Saturday morning when it’s lashing rain and you’re facing a load of hard exercises, but come the summer everyone enjoys it. You’re meeting your friends and while it’s work at training – you’ve to do your bit and concentrate on that – but it’s still enjoyment.

“There are so many different sides to it. You enjoy the training and the games, particularly if you’re winning, but there are other things – you’ve got to watch your diet, you see your friends going out or going on holidays, and we’d miss that because we’re all still young. But there’s plenty of time to do that when we finish up.”

In any case, the Mycro sales representative might be accustomed to the inter-county scene now but it’s not so long ago he was trying to acclimatise.

“The way I judged the inter-county scene was by my first game or two for Cork. In club games you’re maybe waiting for one or two mistakes, you’ll always get a second chance, and that’s the difference. A mistake at club level you might recover, but at county level someone like Eoin Kelly is behind you and he’s gone.

Then there’s the crowd: you can’t hear anything, so that’s another difference.

It’ll be frantic on Sunday. Curran acknowledges Tipp are improving: “John O’Brien did well the last day, Redser is keeping the ball going through, their half-backs are giving Eoin Kelly plenty of ball. The fact that they’ve had two championship games will stand to them. A championship game is worth ten training sessions, so we’re at a slight disadvantage.

“I know a lot of the Tipp lads through work – Micheal Webster, the Kellys – and they’re sound fellas.”

Friendships to be put on hold for 70 minutes this weekend.

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