Larry Tompkins was physically so far ahead of the rest of the Cork panel at his first training session that he thought his new teammates were going easy to make him feel welcome.
In May 1987, the two-time All-Ireland winner had his inter-county transfer completed to allow him play with Billy Morgan’s side.
Speaking in the second part of a special Irish Examiner podcast to mark his induction into the GAA Hall of Fame, Tompkins recalls: “My first training session with Cork, I was fearing the session. Billy (Morgan) said to me, ‘welcome to the set-up’. It was going to be a really hard session, two or three weeks out from the Limerick game in the Munster Championship.
Billy said the lads were in great shape, to fall out if I had to, whenever I wanted. We did a few exercises in the gym, press-ups and sit-ups, we warmed up on the field, and we did four laps. I lapped them without even trying . . . so they were looking at me. I was wondering if they were letting me win.
“It might have taken Billy aback. We did a few more bits and then Billy said we’d do four more laps, he wanted to see... and I lapped them worse the next time. I didn’t care, I was determined to be successful, but Billy said, ‘you’re in great shape’. I said, ‘Billy, I’m in good enough shape but some of those lads — I wouldn’t like to be training them’.
Put to him that he was instrumental in lifting standards in Cork, Tompkins said: “There were a hell of a lot of good players in Cork. If there was one thing, maybe, I think we added a greater intensity in training and we needed it because coming down the line were Meath.”
The Larry Tompkins Story Part 2: 'Go back to Kildare. You're useless!'
Those fierce clashes with the Royals would come later, but Tompkins’ much-anticipated Cork career began less auspiciously, with a six-point Munster semi-final win over Limerick.
Tompkins was already a regular Railway Cup player, having starred with Kildare since he was 16. And after a stellar spell playing for the Donegal club in New York, he’d already impressed for his new club Castlehaven, drawing thousands to the West Cork venue for a league match.
But the step-up to the Cork jersey didn’t go as planned.
“I’d trained the day before down in Union Hall, had probably done an hour and a half or two hours. I was planning for the Munster final in my head. It was moderate, the game. There wasn’t a huge crowd but a lot came from west Cork, Castlehaven and so on, and they came away saying ‘we expected too much’.
“This was another level again, whether they expected me to run through Limerick on my own. Coming off the field I remember a fella roaring down from the stand, ‘Go back to Kildare, you’re useless’. He might have been in the Beamish Room earlier.
“I went back and didn’t have a drink that night, I was a bit disappointed in the game. I thought we’d hammer them. The Munster final was a month away, so the following morning I was out at 6am training away. The Limerick game was Saturday evening, I was at the pitch in Union Hall the Sunday morning at six, thinking of this little fucker up in the stand, I wanted to see him four weeks later.
“When we drew against Kerry in the Munster final the first day I had a look for him again, I’d had a hell of a game, but I didn’t see him. Afterwards he became one of my best friends, Paddy Walsh from the Glen. A great character and never missed a match, and I often refer to that story for motivation.”