Tipperary v Cork
Tipperary decommissioned Lar Corbett after 14 years terrifying defences around Ireland, but his watering hole will be a popular pit stop for those going to Tipperary v Cork in the NHL tomorrow (throw-in 2.30pm).
He still looks like he could do a job for Mick Ryan. Does he miss it?
“From working for myself I really have the attitude of ‘whatever happened last week you have to concentrate on what’s in the future’. I think that comes with business, with having people working for you and all of that.
“I love going to the games, I love watching Tipperary play and winning on the television, but missing it? No.
“Put it another way — if Tipp made the All-Ireland final this August would you be thinking, ‘it’d be great to be out there with the sun splitting the rocks’? Of course. But then you think, ‘could I go back to training in Dr Morris Park on Tuesdays and Thursdays, going to the gym two or three times a week as well? No. I’ve been there and done that’.
“I’m a firm believer that the mind and body do get a little softer the older you get. I don’t think you have the same staying power, though I hope it’s not too bad because I still want to give the club something.”
With his club side Thurles Sarsfield he retains that connection to the county side through the Maher brothers, Paudie and Ronan: ”I see them now and they’re powerhouses, they’re crucial men on the team.
“The condition they’re in — I don’t think I could match that physique, that conditioning now, and you have to be able to admit that to yourself along the line.”
The time and effort needed to achieve that level of conditioning can be summed up handily, he adds: “The difference between when I started and now . . . there’s a simple way of showing it. We used to train at half seven on a Tuesday, and I’d arrive up around ten-past, quarter-past, be out on the field for twenty-five past to train at half-past.
“Now if training is on at half-seven there are lads in the dressing room getting ready at six o’clock. They want to get loosened out, to get strapped up, to get a rub. Then it’s the pre-warm-up, the warm-up, and then training.
“It’s nearly impossible now for a fella to have a full-time job and be part of an intercounty panel. Genuinely, is there a tradesman on an inter-county panel?”
He’s been impressed with Tipperary, particularly the kinds of questions being asked by Michael Breen.
“I’m delighted to see the likes of Paudie (Maher) take up where he left off last year. He’s the captain, and it’s great to see him playing well.
“I’m also delighted to see Ronan Maher midfield. I don’t know if he likes playing there himself but he has a bit more room there to get forward, and he’s very good to take a score.
“At midfield he can push up to the half-forward line, to take a sideline — he’s scored a few of those already — and if you move him back to the half-back line you’d lose a lot. “I was surprised to see Michael Breen at corner-forward and full-forward, and I was saying I didn’t see him in that role, but I changed my tune when I saw what he did against Kilkenny. Tipp need someone like that on the edge of the square, someone big and strong who can play as well, who can score.
“His display was a real trigger, a real ‘there’s something here’. The way teams change you have to have a moment or a game where management and the other players say, ‘there’s something going on here, he’s making a shape’.
“I like Tipp’s aggression at the moment, the hard-hitting and so on. The hurling will always be there. I’d always say the back man has you, as a forward, until April. A forward nearly has to have that in his mind, but when the ground hardens up Tipp will combine that aggression with the hurling.”
When the ground hardens we have the new championship format, and Corbett is a fan. “Absolutely, give me matches any day. I remember playing Limerick three times in 2007, and then going into a round-robin when we lost to them eventually, and we were playing five or six weeks in a row.
“I was never happier. There’s no time to get nervous, you’re ticking over in training without overdoing it, other teams don’t have time to work on complicated game plans — the best players come to the top, and what you’re left with is pure hurling, really.”
What about tomorrow’s opponents?
“Cork had a fair run at it last year,” says Corbett.
“What helped them last year was taking Patrick Horgan off the frees. He upped his aggression, he worked really hard, he was outstanding. I know he’s back on the frees now but it was put up to him last year and he came back stronger.
“They have good, fast, quick hurlers and that running game works for them. They have to be careful not to get caught too much on the counter-attack, on getting turned over there, but they’re very close to getting that right.
“I’d say that as a unit they have the fastest forwards in Ireland and they’ll come into it in the summer. I knew myself I’d struggle in the springtime but when the ball is bouncing hard then you know you’ll have the advantage. It’s the same for Cork, they’ll be really dangerous when the ground gets hard.
“The sand below in Cork at the moment doesn’t suit them, mind you.”
That explains the welcome in Thurles, then ...
“You can ask anyone in the town — when Cork come up to Thurles it’s like nobody else. The atmosphere in the Square, in the bars and restaurants. They’re different, they just have it, pure and simple.”
He should know. He had it himself in spades.