Kieran Bergin finally playing cards right

Maybe it’s because Kieran Bergin has seen and lived in another world to that of an inter-county hurler that makes him such an intriguing interviewee. 

Here is a man who said openly after last month’s Munster final that no team would have stopped Tipperary winning it, but then a couple of days later conceded the county have form in getting carried away.

Last October, Bergin laid it on the line for the county board when he claimed anyone but Eamon O’Shea in charge this year would be “a backward step”. He also rued the decision not to stage club games like Kilkenny in between the drawn and replay All- Ireland finals and said the last-gasp free awarded to Tipperary in the first game by Barry Kelly, this Sunday’s referee, was the wrong decision.

In an increasingly sterile relationship between players and media, Bergin’s candid nature is a breath of fresh air. Having spent seven years in the US before returning home at 26, his perspective is different to others although they share the same goals.

Five years in New York and another two in the likes of Chicago and San Francisco, his younger team-mates see him as the man who has lived the dream. The 29-year-old says he’s only living it now.“I’ve transformed as a person since I came home. I would have been a big messer in America, enjoyed the good life and going out and the whole social scene in the bars. I would never have given up drink when you don’t have anything to give it up for.

“When I came home I became more focused, went to college. Maybe I was just maturing but I changed. I went from drinking pretty much every weekend and socialising to drinking maybe seven or eight times a year. It was a massive transformation for me and I never thought it would happen.

“Look, the cards have been dealt to me and I’m just happy to be here. I never thought I would be sitting around and signings autographs for kids. The only time I ever signed an autograph was writing a cheque out to someone!” When he looks back ,Bergin will recall days like the Munster final more fondly than the socialising he did in the US.

“I chased the good life and I probably got it all out of my system. Even talking to some of the younger lads, they would say ‘I’d love to have done what you done’. I couldn’t say ‘go’ but the likes of Cathal Barrett and these lads they’re U21 now and by the time he’s 31, 32 or 33 even he’s not going to have travelled. Instead, he’ll have a wife and kids and the whole travelling and socialising part of your life is gone.

"But, at the end of the day, it could be worse. You could win a couple of Liam MacCarthys and they are the moments you remember. When I look back at the seven years (in the US), there is no one stand-out night that makes me say, ‘Wow, I remember that night down in San Francisco when we were singing in the street’. You’re going to remember every single minute of an All-Ireland final if you win it.

"The Munster final was surreal. You’re thinking ‘this will stand in my mind forever’ whereas the brain cells will just be killed from a night out.” With his team-mates, Bergin enjoyed a few drinks after beating Waterford last month. Letting off steam is essential, the Killenaule man says.

“Eamon (O’Shea) and Paudie (O’Neill) don’t drink so they don’t really understand it but I think when players train at that intense level all of the time and they’re committing so much of their time and effort you just need that release. It’s not like lads are going on a five-day bender. Some probably would if they could!”

He continues: “We had a drink ban in 2013 and sure we lost our two championship matches. We were gone in June. Maybe it doesn’t work a little bit.” Around New Year’s, Tipperary enjoyed a team holiday cum training camp in Dubai although the management and players had to come to a compromise.

As Bergin recalls: “Eamon kind of lost the run of himself at the start of the week because we were training every day! He just gets excited. A few people had to have a little talk with him! Ah, it was only the first day really when we trained for three or four hours and were waiting on a bus and all this! At the end of the day, lads were happy to do it but we have a lot of hunger and just wanted to get it done. We were looking at the overall goals. We were bitching and moaning about it at the time but in one sense we were delighted we did it when we came back home.”

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