The conversation with Ronan McCarthy is almost four minutes old when the performance of Ruairí Deane is brought up.
Standing outside dressing room number two underneath the Kinnane Stand in Thurles, Cork manager McCarthy is parsing through their surprisingly comfortable Munster semi-final win over Tipp.
Deane, indicative of the leading role he commanded, is the first player mentioned to McCarthy. The manager’s reply is that the Bantry man was “truly magnificent”.
Deane spent most of the evening motoring up and down Tom Semple’s field, at one point in the second half dispossessing a Tipperary player within 30 metres of the Cork posts.
The 26-year-old didn’t need to be among the six Cork players to write their names on the scoresheet, his work was clearly visible elsewhere.
“Ruairí transformed himself over the previous two years,” the manager continued.
Even Kerry boss Éamonn Fitzmaurice singled Deane out at Kerry’s press event last week, insisting it was the “best game” he had ever seen him play.
Having captained Cork to an All-Ireland junior title in 2013, the Bantry midfielder was drafted into the senior panel for the 2014 season. A cruciate injury sustained during the 2014 Munster final hammering to Kerry didn’t help his progression, but even allowing for this injury, Deane was slow to establish himself at the top level.
In his first three years with the Cork seniors, he made only 16 appearances. All but three of these were as a sub coming in.
Towards the end of 2016, Deane weighed up his inter-county involvement. A crossroads had been arrived at and he had a decision to make as to whether he was going to persist with Cork.
“It was nice to hear [what Ronan said] because it was something I looked at about two years ago. I was three years on the panel at the time and I hadn’t really anything major achieved, a few subs’ appearances here and there and an injury in between,” Deane explained.
“You can make all the excuses in the world and pretend it didn’t happen. But I did, I had a think about it and talked to people at home about it. I made the decision that I wasn’t happy with where I was gone with it and hadn’t achieved what I wanted to achieve out of football yet.
“I said I’d give it absolutely everything. In the off-season, I didn’t switch off. The same in the last off-season. I have two years of it now (done).”
Deane moved from bit-part player to first team regular in 2017, starting 10 of Cork’s 11 games across league and championship. Only James Loughrey and Paul Kerrigan started more games than him last year.
“Have I reaped a bit of reward? Yeah. Am I where I want to go yet? No.
“It’s nice to hear [that praise], but I can’t dwell on it too much. There’s more to focus on than just a good game against Tipperary.”
As mentioned earlier, his first Munster final appearance was nothing short of a disaster - his cruciate giving way just three minutes after he had been introduced as a sub against Kerry. It was a nightmare beginning to a fixture which he was reared on.
“I remember when I was younger going up and down to games with my father, you always loved going to see Cork and Kerry playing.
“Graham Canty is from my club and we’d always be going up supporting him, and people before that who I’m probably too young to remember.”
The 2010 All-Ireland winning captain Canty retired from football earlier this year, the three-time All-Star a role model of Deane’s then and now.
“I remember we were up in Croke Park one day when they were playing Sligo. He lands over and throws the jersey at me. Little things like that make a difference.
“He’s a big influence. It’s hard to describe what he is. It’s just his presence. If you describe him as anything, it’s Graham, and that will do.”
A parting word.
“It is nice to be here and be involved in that Cork set-up now. You always want to make a Munster final against Kerry and preferably win it.”
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