Final Moments

WITH his biography and retirement from inter-county hurling, there has been much talk about Brian Corcoran, about how his team-mates on the Erin’s Own side will be inspired in tomorrow’s Munster Club SHC final against Toomevara.

What of another hurling hero, though, another household name, another former hurler-of-the-year —Tommy Dunne? This is also the Toomevara captain’s final season and his team-mates are just as determined to make sure it’s a memorable one.

Ironically, however, even as the plaudits roll in for Brian, no-one — not even within the Erin’s Own constituency — has more admiration for the Cork man than Tommy.

“He’s a fella I’d have fierce respect for, a hurler I really admire. He always struck me as a very reserved sort of person, but a man of very high integrity, very high principles. We’d be around the same age and I’ve played on him a few times, though not too much at championship.

“Half an hour in a league game in Thurles in ‘99 — I started centre-forward, he was centre-back — we had a right ould battle, but then I was moved out to midfield. The first time I came across him was 1989, a Munster U-16 final on a blistering hot day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. I was wing-forward with North Tipp, he was centre-forward with Imokilly. Aah, he was something else.

I’m not sure what he finished with, 2-6 or something. We won, but it wasn’t his fault anyway, we had an outstanding team that time. Just an outstanding player, one of my favourite centre-backs ever. I was disappointed when he went away from the game, left hurling so early, but the way he came back, won two All-Irelands in a new position after two years out of the game, it’s an outstanding achievement.”

While Brian has been hitting the high spots in the last three years, after his return to the game, Tommy has been fading gradually from the limelight.

He didn’t play with the county this year, in fact was very close to giving up completely last year after Toomevara were beaten in the Tipperary championship.

“It was a terrible feeling, losing that game, but it had been a major struggle all year trying to get fit. Time to call it off now, that’s what I felt, and that was the way I left it. Then Pat (Herbert, new trainer) came on board, we had a bit of a chat, and the more I thought about it the more I felt that after all the good years with the club, I didn’t want to finish on a low note.

“I said I’d give it a go for a while, see how it went fitness-wise, but if it wasn’t going according to plan, I’d pull out.

The last couple of years I haven’t been up to the mark physically, my general health wasn’t as good as it should have been, the colitis (a condition from which he suffers) was a bit more active than I would have liked. It’s only in the last 12 months I’ve got control of that again, and in fairness, not being involved in the Tipp team has helped also.

“I’m not as stressed out about things, I don’t feel responsible for everything that happens in Tipperary hurling.”

Mind you, he did get the call from Babs.

“And I was tempted, you’d love to stay playing forever. In fairness to Babs he was very fair, gave me all the time in the world to think about it, never put me under any pressure. It was very flattering to be asked back in; when you talk to Babs about hurling he can make you feel on top of the world, which he did with me. I’m grateful to him for that, I knew deep down that it wasn’t the right thing for me to do, but I had a hard job at times trying to convince myself of that.”

Which leaves the club championship. It’s Tommy’s tenth Munster campaign with Toomevara, only two previous successes (1993 and 2004); this year, however, there’s more optimism than ever in the club. The reason? Pat Herbert, and the expertise he has brought to the setup.

“He brought organisation, professionalism, savage commitment to the job on his part. And he’s brought in Ross Dunphy, who looks after our physical preparation, and that has been central to our success so far this year.”

So, two great clubs, each with their own icon as a source of inspiration.

It’s an added advantage to Tommy that four of his team-mates tomorrow are his own brothers, Barry, Terry and Benny in defence, Kenny in midfield.

“Joey Moloughney, captain of the Tipp minor team that won the All-Ireland this year, was struggling to get his place early on, David Young, the U-21 captain, only came on when Pádraig Hackett got injured in the county final, played really well.

“But there are others, Paddy O’Brien has struggled with injury this year, John O’Brien the same, but always there are players to take their place. We like to think we have a strong panel and that’s been proven this year, our subs are seriously talented, and seriously important to the whole setup.

“If you don’t have those, you don’t have much of a club.”

They have a lot of club in Toomevara, a lot of club in Erin’s Own. Those clubs go far beyond Corcoran or Dunne. Both are richer for their presence, however. It will be some game at the Gaelic Grounds tomorrow. Catch them while you still can.

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