Pa Cronin has several photographs of himself with visiting Cork colleagues during a stint in hospital early last summer.
He was in there for 10 days with pneumonia and the gaunt figure in the photos continually reminds him of the toll it took on him.
Remarkably, he came on as a sub in the Munster semi-final just six days after being discharged and even scored a point in Cork’s win over Clare.
That secured their final place though even with captain Cronin lasting the full duration, they still couldn’t beat Limerick. A lot has happened in the meantime ahead of the two teams’ rematch in Sunday’s provincial decider.
Cork have competed in an All-Ireland final and replay. Limerick have, technically, lost one and a half managers.
Most pertinent to Cronin is the bulk and mass that he’s managed to pile back on since the illness which, by his own estimation, makes him altogether more prepared for this year’s final.
“I’d be about 95 kilogrammes at the moment, I definitely wasn’t that this time last year,” said Cronin. “I can even see from the photographs that I lost a lot of weight inside there in the hospital. I actually wouldn’t be able to put a figure on how much but it was a good bit.
“It was a very tough time. I was playing a club championship match and I got a shoulder, a normal shoulder that you’d get a load of times during a game. I started coughing up blood. It turned out there was pneumonia in my lungs, the lower part of my lungs.
“I went to hospital for 10 days. I was on antibiotics and stuff like that. It was difficult at the time because we were in the Championship season and you couldn’t exactly be stuck in the gym trying to put it all back on.”
Speaking at a Liberty Insurance Championship promotion, Cronin cuts an impressively chiselled figure. His powerful frame will be difficult for Limerick defenders to contain.
There are all sorts of other reasons, however, why the Bishopstown man is optimistic about victory and a first Munster title in eight years.
“The Munster final last year and especially the two All-Ireland finals, we would have learnt so much from them,” said Cronin. “I know it’s a cliche to say you learn from your defeats but it’s so true.
“We learnt so much last year about how to deal with the big days, the side shows that lead into it and especially things like the game being on in Pairc Ui Chaoimh this time.”
Cronin came into the Cork panel in 2006 after a stellar minor season in 2005 when he captained Cork to provincial success. Incidentally, and perhaps it is a good omen, Cork beat Limerick in that provincial final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh with captain Cronin registering 1-10.
He has yet to experience that same feeling with the seniors and puts that down partly to the strike crises that crippled the county in subsequent years.
“I think when you look back, you obviously look back with regret that there had to be a better way of sorting it out because Cork really lost out and that was one of the main reasons we haven’t won a trophy since,” claimed Cronin.
“Around the time before the strikes, Cork and Kilkenny had a massive rivalry and Cork were every bit as good as Kilkenny. Then Kilkenny just pulled away and won All-Ireland after All-Ireland.
“I’m not saying it was all down to what happened in Cork. All I’m saying is that before that, 2003, 2004, 2005, Cork and Kilkenny were 50-50, evenly matched teams.
“I think if the strikes hadn’t happened, if the management had had another year or two after 2006, it would have been interesting to see what would have happened.”
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