Eoghan Cormican spoke to Paul Kerrigan who detailed his new year wish list...
Not a ball kicked by Paul Kerrigan these last seven weeks.
Tomorrow in Clonakilty, he’ll line out at left corner-forward on the Reardens All Star team to face Cork; the first time he’ll lace his boots since Nemo’s Munster club final defeat to Clonmel Commercials on November 29.
All told, he was glad of the break given the physical and mental strain brought about by an ultimately disappointing 2015 season. Granted, there was a sixth county championship with Nemo Rangers, as well as having emulated his father’s achievement by winning an International Rules medal in the Irish colours. In the end, though, talk invariably reverts to Cork’s “appalling” effort against Kildare in the fourth round of qualifiers and on the club scene, Michael Quinlivan’s late, late goal which denied Nemo provincial glory in the cruellest fashion.
Somewhat tempted to present himself for the McGrath Cup in a bid to impress new Cork manager Peadar Healy and his backroom team, Kerrigan realised he’d be better served by taking full advantage of a rare winter break and nursing back to full health the groin injury that troubled him in the latter stages of the club campaign.
“I was involved with Nemo, Cork and Ireland five days a week from November 2014 to December 2015. That is nearly 13 months non-stop. I am 29 so plenty of break is welcomed,” reflects Kerrigan ahead of the start of his 2016 season.
“You saw the weather, it would have been pretty daunting to have to go out in that three to four times a week. I had a long season with a lot of ups and downs so it is hard to get a mental break from it while you are still playing or training.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I love playing games more than anything. I wouldn’t mind playing McGrath Cup, but it is more important for me to get the body right for later down the line.”
Kerrigan will return to Cork training after tomorrow’s game and given he’s unlikely to feature in next Friday night’s McGrath Cup decider against Clare, his first appearance in the red shirt should arrive in their league opener at home to Mayo at the end of January.
For followers of Cork football, there is an air of excitement with this latest management ticket, not least the addition of 10-time All-Ireland winning ladies football boss Eamonn Ryan before Christmas. The Coláiste Chríost Rí teacher is also well aware that expectations have been lowered, not solely by the manner of last summer’s championship exit, but by three consecutive years of failing to live up to their billing, three years of failing to achieve the level of consistency which defined the Cork team he joined in 2008.
Kerrigan has no intention of placing 2015 in the rear-view mirror. The embarrassment walking off the field in Thurles last July will carry him into the spring and beyond. This ‘clean slate’ jargon doesn’t appeal to him given motivation is easily derived by never wanting to feel as low as he did when looking up at the scoreboard that read Kildare 1-21 Cork 1-13.
“From management’s point of view, they will feel that season ended when Kildare beat us and this is a new season, but I would be a very strong advocate of not forgetting the not so happy feeling over the way it ended. Soon as we get into championship mode, I would be a man to push that. You don’t want to feel like that again. You don’t want to be hurting like that again, feeling that sense of embarrassment.
“You put in so much effort and to be knocked out towards the end of July really makes you think is it worthwhile.
“We haven’t been to the All-Ireland semi-final since 2012. Up to 2012, our record of getting to the semis was fairly impeccable. There is probably a lack of expectation. If we can just get one big win with this squad of players, I feel we could lift off. It would give the squad a whole pile of confidence.”
Ask him for his wish list this year and aside from Sam Maguire, he yearns for Cork football to swagger with the consistency of old.
“In the league last year, we were very good some days but then we lost very badly to Derry and lost very badly to Dublin. In the championship, we put in a very good performance the first day against Kerry, average enough in the replay and then appalling against Kildare in the third game. We haven’t been consistent in the past three years in the championship. You never really know what you are going to get from us.
“From 2009 to 2012, teams were fearing Cork and they probably don’t have that fear any more, especially after last year. Getting consistent at a high level where we are expecting to beat a lot of teams and then maybe 50/50 against the top, top teams is what you want.”
The Cork versus Reardens All Stars clash throws in at 2pm.
Adds Conor McCarthy, a member of Healy’s backroom team: “This game will provide an opportunity for our selectors to see the talent available not just in the Cork senior team but also the skills of the Reardens All Stars.
Reardens All Stars:
MA Martin (Nemo Rangers); D Hazel (Skibbereen), A O’Reilly (Nemo Rangers), C Hayes (Castlehaven); JP Murphy (Ballincollig), T Ó Sé (Nemo Rangers), A O’Donovan (Nemo Rangers); D Niblock (Nemo Rangers), D Óg Hodnett (Skibbereen); J O’Rourke (Carbery Rangers), M Collins (Castlehaven), C O’Brien (Nemo Rangers); K Davis (Skibbereen), B O’Driscoll (Nemo Rangers), P Kerrigan (Nemo Rangers).
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