Paul Kerrigan maintains family pride in Croke Park for International Rules

Like father, like son. Paul Kerrigan will follow in the footsteps of Jimmy in Croke Park tomorrow evening. Just as Tommy Walsh in 2010 and 2011 emulated Sean’s achievement in 1984, another bloodline across the International Rules series will be extended.
Paul Kerrigan maintains family pride in Croke Park for International Rules

Paul’s not going to deny it will be a proud moment for the clan, particularly Jimmy. “It would have been a big part of his career in the ‘80s. I think ‘84 and ‘86 they went over with Kevin Heffernan and they had a very strong team. It was a bit more physical probably than it is now, a bit more x-rated.

“Yeah, hugely honoured. When I told himI got a call for trials,he was delighted. Just said, ‘see how you go’. I told him (about making the 23-man squad) and he was delighted. It’ll be a big thing for my family next weekend. I mightn’t have thought I’d have got the chance but I’m delighted to have gotten it.”

Kerrigan was brought up on tales of those two three-test series here but thanks to the playbacks on TG4 both he and his father have been able to watch those early hybrid games. “Kind of all the best players were going over. Heffernan was manager. That would have been Dublin’s equivalent of Billy Morgan for us. I’d say he really enjoyed it and he’d still talk about it. He probably went over with Meath fellas, who they would have had a great rivalry with in the late ‘80s.”

Apart from the two Fridays prior to the county final games against Castlehaven, Kerrigan hasn’t missed a training session with the Ireland panel since Joe Kernan called him into the provisional group in the middle of September. Juggling country and Nemo Rangers commitments hasn’t been as much of an ordeal as some might expect it would have been for the 28-year-old.

Although they are different games, he’s noticed how the Rules experience has benefited his football with the club as exemplified in the Munster semi-final victory over Legion last weekend. “(Ireland selector) Pádraic Joyce would have been saying, you’re aiming for a pass to the chest rather than... like, how we play with Nemo is all into space, in front of a fella. It has been pretty tough but you just have to try and get used to it.

“The way I see it, the pace up here (in International Rules training) is so fast. I just try to use it to my benefit when I go back to the club. You’re maybe that bit sharper. Maybe if I was out of Cork and just playing with Nemo, I might have slipped a bit but there’s no fear of that up here. It isa different set of rules.

“The way I see it, up here you have to move the ball quicker. You have eight steps but you’d be lucky to get that. You just want to get it and get rid of it. And that’s how we play with Nemo. It is just trying to have faith in your kicking either way, to be honest.”

Kerrigan has a Munster final with Clonmel Commercials to look forward to in Mallow on Sunday week but if he had his way, the All-Ireland final would also be played before the end of the year. “That would be my big thing, I’d like to see the GAA calendar changed completely. I’d love to see the All-Ireland finals played in the middle of July and give the second half of July, August and September to the clubs.

“I wouldn’t be a big traditionalist in terms of Paddy’s Day or the third Sunday in September. I just think the clubs are suffering too much and probably players are suffering too much. Like, every inter-county team is probably back now. It seems the All- Ireland final is just over.”

Kerrigan argues the season could easily be truncated for the sake of player welfare. “I just think it’s too long. You’re training from now and maybe it’ll all come down to one or two games... it’s just too long.

“The ratio of training to games and the time from game to game is so inconsistent. We were flying along and then out in two weeks, knocked out of the championship, with Cork. I remember watching the All-Ireland final and thinking, ‘Jaysus, it’s been ages since we played with Cork’. It was nearly two months.”

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