On the field, Kilkenny senior hurling captain Eoin Larkin leads by example. When the need is greatest, that’s when Eoin is most prominent and time and again throughout a glistening career we’ve seen that.
No hiding from the pressure for this soldier, no running from the battle. Now Eoin has taken to a different field and again he is leading by example.
Like many another youngster before him, Eoin wasn’t very fond of school and dropped out early, never bothered to do his Leaving Cert. No harm in that of course, it’s an over-rated exam anyway and Eoin went on to do three years of an apprenticeship before joining the Army.
Now, however, aged 27, he has decided to go back to school. He’s not shouting it from the rooftops – that’s not the Kilkenny way. But he’s not hiding from it either and this week, as he prepared himself for Kilkenny’s meeting with Waterford, he spoke of the reasons behind his decision.
“I didn’t want to be in school when I was in it. There were times when I’d come out of a class and ask myself – what went on in there? I had no interest in it. I did the junior cert and left after that, couldn’t wait to get out of the place. I chose to go back now — when you’re that bit older you’re more inclined to learn.”
The disciplines of army life and senior inter-county training have been a factor in his decision: “It probably has, you have to be disciplined to play hurling and in your job and I didn’t have the benefit of that experience when I was actually in school. It probably helped me along the way.”
For any adult, to decide to go back to school takes courage, all kinds of courage. For such a high-profile individual, the captain of the All-Ireland senior hurling champions? But that’s Eoin, and in clan Larkin that kind of courage would be very much in character. In the times that are in it, so many people having to retrain and upskill, he’s not putting himself out there as any kind of model – again, that isn’t his way. By example, that’s how he leads.
School is in Cork, the College of Commerce, and from the luxury of being able to nip around the corner to Nowlan Park from the army barracks in Kilkenny he now has a 200-mile round-trip a few times a week to make training.
A drag, but needs must and with the bar rising every year no-one can afford to fall behind. Certainly Kilkenny are keeping up the pressure and even this early in the season, are looking very sharp. They swamped Galway in the Walsh Cup final, outplayed Tipperary in the league opener two weeks ago, then provided the bulk of the team as Leinster beat Munster and Connacht to win the recent Martin Donnelly interprovincial title, Eoin himself looking sharp.
“Maybe lads are after looking after themselves a bit better over winter, getting a bit cuter as lads get older,” is Eoin’s explanation. “We’re doing a lot of fitness training at the moment, not as much hurling as we’d like at this time of year. Time is passing quick and we’ll be back into the middle of the summer soon. It’s early days but we’re happy enough with where we are. You can’t complain any day you go out against Tipperary and win!”
Waterford were well beaten by Cork in their league opener but, says Eoin, in a derby game such as this that counts for nothing.
“Yeah, it will be a tough game, neighbouring counties, they’ll be well up for it after losing their first game. If you have any ambitions of making a league semi-final you need to be winning most of your matches and we’ll be going down to win again next Sunday. Should be a great game — tight pitch at Walsh Park, I don’t know who that will suit more. We’ll see.”
As for the challenges later on, anyone hiding in the long grass this year? “It’s hard to know. Cork looked impressive against Waterford and it’s early in the year to be writing off Tipperary. Dublin will be there or thereabouts and Galway have a new management in place. All we can do is get ourselves ready and we’ll be looking forward to all of the challenges.”
All of the challenges indeed, on and off the field.
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