Jamie Coughlan learned from the best coming up in the Newtownshandrum car to training with Cork.
He had Ben and Jerry O’Connor for company, and Cathal Naughton. Now he and Naughton are the only ones left.
“I learned from Ben and Jerry — not just them, every older fella,” said Coughlan. “They’d all talk to you and bring you on — they wouldn’t let you sit in the corner, they’d have advice for you and pass you the ball to bring you into the game.
“Ben, Jerry, Cathal — they were all massive for me growing up, but Ben and Jerry are gone now so we’ve to drive on ourselves.”
He’s done well so far, helping Cork to reach Sunday’s Allianz HL Division 1A final with Kilkenny.
“The first target was the Waterford game, then the Galway game — it was never, ‘get to the league final’, just the next game the whole time. Now we’re in the league final we might as well go for it.
“You’d cherish any medal you win, any day. It’d be great to win it, in 20 years’ time you’d be thinking, ‘I won that at a young age’, but that stuff is for the future, right now I’m only thinking about the game.”
Win, lose or draw Cork have the advantage of a hard game rather than a long lay-off to their Munster championship opener: “We wanted a competitive game, so we’re very happy with reaching the league final,” said Coughlan. “The training’s better because there’s a competitive game at the end of it.”
Coughlan acknowledges the competition for places that exists in a forward line that changes positions constantly is a driving force.
He said: “There is competition but that’s what we want. This day this fella mightn’t go well or another fella, so when you get your chance you must got for it and take every chance you can.
“Even in practice games you’d notice that you might be named to play some place but the 10 forwards we have are able to play anywhere in the forward line — we can chop and change and move around.”
Coughlan’s bulked up over the winter thanks to physical trainer Dave Matthews’ tailored gym programmes.
“I’ve done a bit, Dave outlined programmes for us based on size, height and weight, but I wouldn’t be a huge follower of the gym. Pace is the biggest thing, though you need a bit of everything. Every time you go to the gym it makes you a bit better, so I’m happy enough,” he s
“It’s a big thing in the game now. Everyone does their own bit and keeps themselves in good shape, and once fellas are in good shape and happy in themselves, the confidence is good, and that’s the main thing.”
Coughlan’s noticed the renewed optimism about the hurlers on Leeside.
“There’s a massive buzz, everywhere you go people want to talk to you about how well it’s going – that’s just the way it goes. When you’re down, you’re down.
“At a few games last year the crowds were big enough, but there were big crowds at the Kilkenny and Tipperary games in the league this year alright. I suppose the crowds will come if they want, if they see everything is going right they’ll follow us, and that’s what we want. We want the crowd behind us and once Cork are winning then everyone is going to be happy.”
Sunday it’s Kilkenny. Coughlan may figure out around the half-forward line and accepts it’s a tough posting.
“If you’re in the half-forward line you’ve to take what’s coming,” says the agriculture student.
“You’ve three half-backs there for Kilkenny who are all All-Stars. We’ll have to move around, get our cuteness out of it.
“These games drive lads on. They develop you. You mightn’t get over them this week but you’d learn things about players – ‘he’s inclined to do this’ or whatever – that you might be able to use later on, in the championship, to get around them.
“That’s something I’d do. You’d notice something about a player you’re marking, ‘he did that very well’, and the next time you’d play him you’d try something different. You’d learn something off a fella every day, but sure they’re learning off you at the same time.”
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