Everything was new. I hadn’t played championship for Cork even at minor or U21. I played league games alright but never championship. Even playing the first game against Kerry was a big plus. Making the Cork team, literally putting on the jersey, I could have died happy after playing against Kerry.
From there to the finish, you were a greenhorn in lots of ways. I wouldn’t say bonus territory but this was all great. Then you’re on a bit of roll.
We had Waterford. You’re in a Munster semi-final in Thurles. You’re delighted with yourself.
And then it’s Munster final day. One of the things I remember about those days; we’d go to the matches in cars. Taxis.
Denis Hurley, a selector, Teddy McCarthy and myself. We were picked up in Glanmire. We’d go to the Anner Hotel first and then I remember driving up through the crowds. You can imagine in a bus, the cheering all around, but in a car, they’re next to you. I’d never experienced anything like it.
I can still see the crowd. I can still remember the hair standing on the back of my neck as I came out the tunnel and turned to the Cork crowd at the Town End. It’s probably the most spine-tingling moment. Running onto the field on Munster final day, Playing Tipp in Thurles in a Munster final, that’s what you want.
Then we had Antrim in the semi-final. I wouldn’t say the place was empty but you could hear comments from the crowd. I was marking Olcan McFetridge. That kept you focused.
In the final, we were outsiders. It was strange, but I don’t think you ever thought too much about winning or losing. I understand now when people say it’s great to have young fellas on the team. Because they have no fear. I wasn’t a young fella. I was 25, But it was my first time. It’s not so much you’re not afraid, but you’re just buzzed by the whole thing.
I was injury-free, I was as fit as I was ever going to be, it was just amazing and you just enjoyed it. I was like a big 14-year-old. And it’s only later you realise how fortunate and lucky you are when these things happen.
Obviously, if it had all gone badly wrong, I could have been scarred by the memory. But it just happened.
I’d never say I wasn’t good enough. but people don’t realise how big a part luck has to play.
We went up to a league semi-final against Wexford in Thurles and I was only sub. Understandably.
That game ended in a draw and because of injuries and changes I got in for the replay. And because the team didn’t play very well, the full-back line got loads of ball, so we looked okay.
So if that first game hadn’t ended in a draw, I probably wouldn’t have made championship.
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe I was capable. I believed I was capable the other years too. But that year, I just got lucky. I could be telling you now, I should have been on that team in 1990.
You have to be there when things fall your way. There were fellas knocking around the panel that time who had equally as good a claim to be on that team.
Too often people write luck out of it as though things are all of our own making. Especially in a team sport. I used to train fellas and point out to them that in the 90s I had an All-Ireland medal and Brian Corcoran didn’t. It’s not just about how good the individual is. It’s about who you have around you.
The double? You were up there wishing the footballers on, especially for fellas you knew that were involved. Teddy, obviously, and Billy Morgan was the coach of our school team.
The double nearly became more significant afterwards. You knew it was significant, but it didn’t really dawn how important.
But at the time, we were on a high after the hurling final and we thought they were going to win anyway.
You were floating along in dreamland. You know the way your kids don’t see danger. And you’re roaring at them to keep away from this or that. I was a bit like that.
There was one incident in the final against Galway. I went out to the ball ahead of Eanna Ryan. And I got caught in two minds whether to pick it or pull because I was afraid he’d hook me.
And I stuck the hurley in the ground and nearly did myself a serious injury.
I ran over the ball and Eanna Ryan picked up the ball and turned and ran for goal. I was going to do a John Tennyson on it and throw the hurley at him, but he wheeled away and stuck it over the bar. Imagine if he had gone in and stuck it in the net.
Or what if Nicky English stayed on me for the whole game in Thurles, he might have skinned me in the second half. Who knows?
But I only thought of those things years later. At the time, you’re just playing away mad and you don’t see these things. Once we crossed the finish line in the All-Ireland, things had fallen into place.
It defines you, in a way. If you were offered something as a teenager, one thing you could do, you’d take it.
It means I have an All-Ireland medal. I feel, literally, blessed that it happened. If I came along and played from ‘92 to ‘98, as a better hurler, I wouldn’t have an All-Ireland medal. It’s a cruel thing about sport.
I could be here til the cows come home listing better players who don’t have one, and that’s not running myself down at all.
There was work involved, training that had to be done, all that stuff, but things worked out.
And I’m now 50, looking back and saying that’s great.
Unlike Ben Johnson, who said he’d prefer the gold medal because someone can take the record time off you. Little did he know.